ALBANY — They have no problem with it.
Yes, Connor Fields is still a relatively new sales representative at Avion Pharmaceuticals, but his bosses understand sometimes he needs to check out early on Fridays to get ready for his weekend gig playing in the Premier Lacrosse League.
“So my work’s been great about it all,” said Fields, the former University at Albany men’s lacrosse star who returns this weekend to the school’s Tom & Mary Casey Stadium to play for the PLL’s Chaos. “They know I play lacrosse, and when I first interviewed with them, I’d told them about that.”
Pressed on how much his bosses “know” about his lacrosse exploits, Fields laughs. No, he said, he’s not sure if they’re aware that so many people within the lacrosse world this summer have described Fields as the sport’s best player, but — with a laugh — he suggests it’s possible “they’ve looked me up” since he started working for the company in January.
That best-player-in-the-world tag has increasingly been applied to Fields this summer as he has starred with the Chaos, who play 8 p.m. Saturday at Casey Stadium against the Atlas. The PLL, which travels to a different city each weekend, also has a doubleheader Sunday at Casey Stadium that starts at 1:30 p.m. with a game between the Redwoods and Chrome, and closes with a matchup between the Whipsnakes and Archers.
Throughout the PLL’s inaugural campaign -- the regular season concludes this weekend -- Fields has served as one of the league’s top stars. Healthy again after a knee injury that marred his senior season at UAlbany in 2018, Fields’ 3.6 points per game for the first-place Chaos ranks fourth in the PLL and his latest behind-the-back pass or shot seemingly becomes a viral sensation on social media each weekend.
But . . . best player in the world?
Fields, who lives in Buffalo, said he doesn’t try to claim that title for himself, even if it’s flattering that so many others offer him that label.
“It’s definitely really cool to hear. It’s humbling — but I don’t know about it,” Fields said. “There’s a lot of great players. It’s just really cool to be brought up in the conversation.”
Fields is one of several former UAlbany players competing in the PLL this season, including Chaos teammates such as Blaze Riorden and Miles Thompson. One former Great Dane not in the PLL, though, is Lyle Thompson, who is considered by many to be the greatest player in college lacrosse history and one that has been a regular fixture in the sport’s best-in-the-world discussion for several years.
Fields and Lyle Thompson — who plays in Major League Lacrosse — played together for one season at UAlbany. During his years at UAlbany, Lyle Thompson set the NCAA career points record, shared one Tewaaraton Award with his brother Miles Thompson and won solo another national player of the year award, while Fields graduated from UAlbany as the NCAA’s No. 2 all-time career scorer and led the Great Danes to their first-ever appearance in the national semifinals. (Loyola’s Pat Spencer passed Fields on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list last season.)
It’s likely that no person is better equipped to compare Fields and Lyle Thompson than UAlbany head coach Scott Marr — and the veteran Great Danes head coach is thrilled any such debate exists.
“First, it’s just awesome that we’re talking about two guys that played for Albany as being the best in the world,” Marr said. “It’s splitting hairs with what they both do and how good they are. Connor is having a tremendous summer and he’s really still just getting back from his knee injury; I wish he was this healthy in 2018.
“So,” Marr continued, “it’s hard to say, but I still think Lyle is the best player in the world right now. It’s hard to say it’s not Lyle — but Fieldsy is right there. . . . That you can say, though, that two Albany guys are vying for it, I think that’s just awesome.”
The 23-year-old Fields is slightly more than three years younger than Lyle Thompson, and Fields is only a little more than a year removed from surgery that repaired the damaged right knee he played on during his college career. Fields hurt his knee before his junior season and likely tore his ACL at that point; it wasn’t until he suffered a sprained MCL midway through his senior season that further destabilized his knee, though, that his previously torn ACL was discovered, and began to truly affect his movement and ability to play.
“I feel back to 100% now,” said Fields, who still scored 86 points during his senior college season that saw him miss three full games and large chunks of others as his knee’s stability worsened. “It took a bit. I didn’t feel 100% when I started in the PLL, but after a couple games, I started to feel really good again. . . . I couldn’t really remember the last time my knee [felt good]. I really didn’t remember the feeling of being 100% — so I think right now I am 100%. I feel like I am comfortable.”
Fields played for the San Diego Seals in the indoor National Lacrosse League after his knee surgery, which ended his season last summer with the Charlotte Hounds of the MLL. Fields, the overall No. 3 pick in last year’s MLL draft, was one of many top players to shift from the MLL to the PLL for this summer.
“It was definitely a tough decision. I really appreciated Charlotte for drafting me, having faith in me and sticking with me because of my knee,” Fields said. “So it was definitely tough, and I went back and forth with it, talking with my family, and other guys and friends. I just kind of decided that [moving to the PLL] was the right move for me at the time.”
It is expected that Saturday’s game at Casey Stadium will feature a large crowd, and one likely to favor the Chaos given the team’s handful of active players who once played at UAlbany.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be like I remember it being,” Fields said. “I’ve always thought Albany has the greatest fans, and I’m hoping they’ll be just as loud for the PLL games as UAlbany games.”
Always a fan favorite who signed countless autographs during his time at UAlbany, Fields said he hopes to do his part on the turf this weekend to give the crowd reason to cheer.
“I want to put on a show for them,” Fields said.