Long way home: Maltz living boyhood dream after years on lacrosse outskirts

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse lacrosse memorabilia splattered the Huntington, N.Y., basement where 3-year-old Derek Maltz dressed up in a Syracuse jersey to play mini-stick lacrosse with his dad, and later his brother.Team photos from Derek Maltz Sr.’s three-year SU career were displayed with an oversized Orange banner, a closer shot of him playing in the 1983 championship against Johns Hopkins at Rutgers Stadium, and the special edition No. 25 Orange jersey Maltz Sr. wore that day.Now Derek Maltz Jr. wears a larger jersey with a different number, but the colors are the same.“It’s been my dream to come here and play,” Maltz said. “I was just basically born into being a Syracuse fan.”Maltz, JoJo Marasco, Matt Harris and other SU teammates get picture messages of the 1983 championship ring. It’s a reminder and motivation. SU’s 1983 NCAA title win was the first of 10 – not including the 1990 title game won by Syracuse but vacated by the NCAA due to an ineligibility infraction – and kicked off a 22-year streak of Final Four appearances. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThere is no hiding for Maltz. He’s a 6-foot-3, 196-pound honorable mention preseason All-American, SU’s leading returning scorer and its only junior captain.To grow the legacy, the same legacy that shines off the hand of Maltz Sr.’s right ring finger and into the phones and minds of Maltz and his teammates, this year’s Orange needs him. SU won’t contend for another title this season without Maltz and his crease dominance. But Maltz’s path to starring for and leading the storied program is much more than the product of some generational progression. Coming of age in Ashburn, Va., far removed from the hotbeds of lacrosse, Maltz’s struggle was proving himself on a national stage, largely without the help of talented high school teammates.“You’re playing with kids who, I mean, they can throw and catch but they’re just playing to do something in high school, when we’re playing for the rest of our career,” said SU midfielder Chris Daddio.Maltz and Daddio played together from about ages 7-10 in the Loudoun County (Va.) lacrosse league before the Maltzes moved from Ashburn to Roxbury, N.J. Once Maltz returned to Virginia for high school at Stone Bridge, he and Daddio, who played for Loudoun Valley in nearby Purcellville, often commiserated about the difficulties of shining bright enough outside the recruiting spotlight.Both played club lacrosse – Daddio for Madlax and Maltz for Fuse then for the more prestigious Blackwolf. But the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Daddio has been about that size since his freshman year of high school. Maltz was relatively scrawny until his lights-out marathon weight room sessions caught up with him late in high school and the summer before he joined the Orange.“He had this aura, this natural leadership he just had,” Stone Bridge head coach Scott Mitchell said. “When Derek did something, everyone did it.”As Maltz transformed himself, he transformed an entire program.Before Maltz, Ricky Reyes said he had never stepped into a weight room or cared about his diet. A year behind Maltz, Reyes joined Stone Bridge lacrosse as a sophomore, before the 2008 season. The junior varsity team had existed for all of two years, and Mitchell was preparing as the fifth coach in the program’s last six seasons.Maltz brought players to offseason workouts, conditioning sessions and mini-stick games at Trailside Park, about a mile up Claiborne Parkway from Stone Bridge. He brought his teammates to restaurants to watch college lacrosse on Saturdays.The unprecedented offseasons did more than make the Stone Bridge players prepare for, talk about and play lacrosse. They fused what was once a group of reasonably talented but disparate individuals into a tight-knit unit that gladly scrapped and fought in practice before resuming its friendship off the practice field.In Maltz’s senior year, 2010, Stone Bridge completed its finest season ever, advancing to the regional quarterfinals.“He made kids realize all the hard work we put in, it would pay off somewhere else, not just on the field,” Reyes said. “He changed a lot of people.”Brett Gallahan captained the Bulldogs after Maltz graduated. The year before, though, he was scrapping for ground balls with Maltz, chasing, fighting and wanting to succeed Maltz as the team’s leader. And to that end, by Maltz’s mere presence, Gallahan said, he lost 40 pounds.“My junior year, I gained a shit ton of weight,” Gallahan said. “I knew that the next year I wanted to be the leader on the team, kind of like he always was, because he wasn’t going to be there anymore. And so I knew I couldn’t do that if I was fat and slow.”Reyes went on to play for Christopher Newport (Va.) University, and Gallahan plays club ball at Virginia Tech. Both said they would be out of the sport without Maltz.Maltz brought that same relentless leading drive to Syracuse, yet of all the hours, goals and assists he’s given the Orange, his most special contribution may come a year from now, when he links up with younger brother Dylan, the No. 13 player in the Class of 2013, according to Inside Lacrosse. He committed to SU in the summer of 2011.In the dying minutes of the regional quarterfinals of the 2010 Virginia state playoffs, Derek and Dylan stood together at midfield. Stone Bridge was down two men, trailing 12-7 with less than four minutes left, and Wilbert Tucker Woodson High School was stalling the clock. The Maltzes knew their high school career together was over. They looked at each other and, according to the younger Maltz, both said: “Don’t worry, we’ll play together again.”Brandon Mullins remembers one of the first times he stripped Maltz. After the play, Maltz turned around and congratulated him. “I just kind of went … ‘Yeah?’” Mullins said, tilting his head.Mullins was confused. Nobody had done that before.“Yeah, I mean it’s kind of like ‘What’d you just say?’ at first,” he said. “But then you kind of get to know Derek and realize his personality and realize it’s all for the best.”Maltz, too, is growing and ever-tinkering with his game. When he beats Brian Megill, one of the best defenders in the nation and the No. 7 overall pick in last month’s Major League Lacrosse Draft, he asks Megill what more he can do – what it is he did that allowed Megill to get a stick in front of him, even if Maltz blew through it.“When I get him once in a while, which isn’t often because he’s a good player,” Megill said, “I’ll be like, ‘You’re hanging your stick on that one’ or ‘You know, you had me top side but you came right into me, I was waiting for you.’”Maltz returns the favor, explaining how and why his “question mark” and “bull” dodges get the better of Megill.With eight multi-goal games and 24 of his 28 tallies coming in those contests last year, it’s easy to peg Maltz as a crease monkey — and rightly so. Size, speed and accuracy – he’s been picking corners since age 5 – make him a nightmare for defenders and goaltenders in close. But as he grows more comfortable in the SU offense, he’s only broadening his game.“As a crease player, he had a certain role that he would play in the offense and he was just very disciplined,” Maltz Sr. said. “He didn’t want to vary and do things that the coaches didn’t want him to do.”In SU’s preseason opening scrimmage against Hofstra on Jan. 26, he looked comfortable organizing the attack from the point, even peeling away from the crease to score with 2:50 left in the first half.Bobby Wardwell estimates Maltz puts about five goals past him per practice. Whereas some players have spots where Wardwell can more or less guess they’ll shoot, the goalie said he never knows where Maltz is aiming.Opposing goalies don’t have it any easier. About twice a week, Maltz spends an hour and a half to two hours watching film, zeroing in on goaltenders’ weaknesses and defenses’ slide patterns. The homework is a hobby for Maltz, who his dad recalls holing up with a rented Mark Millon lacrosse video and watching hours of clips of the game’s all-time greats, dissecting their games.His helpful obsession is innate, genetic. But it’s stoked and strengthened by growing up on the outskirts of the lacrosse world, toiling with and for his high school teammates, all the while growing up with a piece of lacrosse history for a father. Maltz Sr. himself drove home his son’s underlying mentality.“You are one kid,” the former Orangeman said. “There are millions of kids that play this game and you get an opportunity, so you got to make the most of your opportunity… Everybody wants the ring.” Comments Related Stories Where the light is: With more experience, Syracuse searches for way to reclaim past gloryBall hawk: After decorated high school football career, Mullins thrives as defender on lacrosse fieldNet natural: Wardwell becomes force in cage after years of preparing for Division-I spotlightLighting it up: Syracuse’s new-look attack anchors offense, scoring responsibilitiesSyracuse No. 2 in preseason Big East outlookcenter_img Published on February 14, 2013 at 3:46 am Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_last_img

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