BY MATT JENKINS
---- — If there’s anyone that knows the feeling of a momentum shift, it’s a lacrosse faceoff specialist.
Two or three consecutive wins in the faceoff X can get a lacrosse team running downhill ... and this summer, Hamilton-Wenham’s Elliott Burr experienced the recruitment equivalent of such a momentum swing.
Burr, the Generals’ do-it-all midfielder who excelled at faceoffs, had settled on doing a post-graduate year at Phillips Andover after graduating from Hamilton-Wenham this spring. But some outstanding faceoff work at a couple of big camps and tournaments this summer put recruiters from Syracuse University on Burr’s trail — only they had no intention of waiting another year to lock him up.
Syracuse was unable to offer Burr an athletic scholarship, but they did offer him a chance to compete for the faceoff midfielder position when he gets into camp.
”I was at the Nike Blue Chip Lacrosse Camp down in Baltimore, and Syracuse saw me. Then they saw me the next week at a different camp, called and said they were looking for me to come in right away,” the 18-year-old Burr said. “After that, I went to the campus and looked at the facilities and loved everything.
”It took about a week for me to decide that I wanted to commit. I’m going in two weeks.”
All told, the complete transformation from heading off to Phillips Andover to becoming a freshman at Syracuse will be less than three weeks.
Most incoming freshmen spend their entire summers preparing for college. Burr doesn’t have that luxury now.
”The coaching staff and admissions has helped a lot getting my situation set for housing,” Burr said. “They’ve made it a lot easier, but I still have to buy books and register for classes in a short amount of time.”
The interest from Syracuse came out of left field. The Orange were never on Burr’s radar beforehand, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become the first Division 1 college lacrosse player from the Hamilton-Wenham program.
”I always thought that being a post-graduate I’d gain more exposure to get another summer with the Top Gun Fighting Clams (elite lacrosse team),” Burr said. “I thought I could develop more and be a better overall recruit.
”But Syracuse said my academics checked out and I could come in and be on the team now. I had never really considered Syracuse. I was thinking more along the lines of the Ivys and the NESCACs. When they called, I was kind of shocked.”
Hamilton-Wenham coach Jim LaSelva seems a little less shocked than his star midfielder. According to LaSelva, Burr put the effort in, and his parents — Susan and Bob — did everything they could to help their son get noticed in the offseason.
”Since Elliott was a freshman, they were driving him around to tournaments and camps,” LaSelva said. “That’s a credit to his parents to get recruited, getting his name out there and letting them know who he is. You can’t sit back and wait.”
Burr was a rock for the Generals ever since he broke into the lineup four years ago. As a senior, Burr scored 61 goals and dished out 40 assists. He was an easy All-League selection in the Cape Ann League and was generally viewed as a terrific all-around player for Hamilton-Wenham.
No one could overlook his skills on faceoffs, and LaSelva figures those will only get better as he devotes more time to improving.
”He’s a big kid (6-feet, 200 pounds). He’ll be working with a faceoff coach. This is Division 1, so they have someone who is just a faceoff coach,” LaSelva said. “It’s an important part of the game, and they want to get him there and get him used to the system. Even if he’s a backup, he’ll be learning a tremendous amount.”
Burr believes he was targeted by Syracuse for his ability to win faceoffs, which appears to be a position of need for the Orange. But he also knows nothing will be given to him; he’ll have to earn any playing time that he gets.
”I started taking faceoffs my sophomore year and I sort of thought that my college career would be more of an offensive middie, but as I kept going at the showcases and tournaments, that’s what they started looking at me for,” said Burr, who will enter college undecided about his major.
”It’s going to be really exciting and a great learning experience playing with such a high level of talent. I’ve been playing summer leagues and going to programs with talented players, but it will be a whole different level of lacrosse.”