Albany Academy graduate Kevin Leveille is on a roll as he approaches the final cut for a spot on Team USA.
The 11th-year pro with the Rochester Rattlers just set the Major League Lacrosse record for goals in a career last Thursday and is on the 30-man roster for the Americans. Sometime in late June or early July, after a June 26 game in Boston against the MLL All-Stars, the roster will be reduced to the 23 players who will represent the U.S. in the World Lacrosse Championships in Denver.
The tournament is played every four years, and Leveille has been left on the outside looking in since trying to make the roster in 2002.
“It’s kind of my big goal, it always has been,” Leveille said. “I’ve been close the last few times around for the world games. I just keep going, try to keep on top of my game. I’ve been working hard to stay in shape.”
The Americans won the gold in 2010 when Leveille’s brother Mike was on the squad. Kevin was an alternate for the team and traveled to the tournament in Manchester, England.
This year, he hopes to defend the gold his brother helped win.
He’s in fine form, having scored six goals in the last two games for the 4-2 Rattlers. That pushed him to 271 career goals, surpassing the mark previously set by Tim Goettelman (270). He also tied Goettelman for the career lead in game-winning goals with 14. He has reached these totals in 20 fewer games than Goettelman. Saturday’s game against Ohio will be Leveille’s 114th.
Leveille said he didn’t think the feat had sunk in just yet, but as he thought about it, what came to mind were all the passes that set up his goals and the players who sent them his way.
“It just reminds me of playing the last 11 years with all the different guys I’ve played with,” Leveille said. “I got to play with my brother for a good four seasons, and he was a great feeder, and that’s a big part of the reason I scored so many goals. It just kind of has been a good flashback to everything that has gone on for the last 11 summers.”
For nine of those summers, he has been a captain. By his third season with Boston, his first team, he had earned the respect of his peers and coaches and was awarded the captaincy. Then he went to play for Chicago, where the roster was riddled with young players, and he was given the job of setting the example for them. In Rochester, there is a good balance of youth and experience, but there are few better choices for the captaincy than a player with a decade of pro experience and a nose for the goal.
“Each situation has been different, but it’s been cool to be involved with the coaches and helping young players develop,” Leveille said. “I take it to heart, and it’s one of the most important parts of the whole thing for me.
“It definitely keeps you honest, keeps you working hard. You can’t set a bad example. I think it has helped me manage my game better.”
One of the players for whom Leveille has to set the example is University at Albany graduate and Tewaaraton Award co-winner Miles Thompson, who was drafted by Rochester. Leveille’s locker is next to Thompson’s, and as a fellow talented attack, he has offered advice to the rookie as he adjusts to the pro game.
“First of all, he’s a really nice, humble, great kid who’s obviously packed with talent,” Leveille said. “It’s a little bit of a transition, I think. He’s not playing with his brother and his cousin at this point, so it’s a little different from his previous four years, but he’s stepped right in and been able to make plays right away.
“So I just try to tell him, ‘Hey, keep it simple, do the little things. Don’t worry if you make a mistake here or there; it’s going to happen.’ The game moves a lot faster, the guys are bigger and stronger, which you don’t really anticipate. At least I didn’t. I thought, ‘How much better could they be than in college?’ Then you get there, and you’re like, ‘Whoa!’ But he’s been great, and he’s fun to be around. Obviously, there’s a lot of attention on him, but he handles it well.”
Bigger and stronger. The best of the best.
If Leveille continues to be one of them for the next couple weeks, he could set the ultimate example for his young teammates and finally earn that red, white and blue jersey.
“It’s a tough group coming out of the U.S., and nobody is gifted the opportunity to put that jersey on,” Leveille said. “I’m hoping to make the 23-man roster to represent our country on our own soil, defending the gold we won last time, when my brother was an all-world player. It’s certainly an awesome thing. In my opinion, it’s the pinnacle of our sport.”