PLL High School Combine: How the 5-Star Attackmen Fared
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The inaugural PLL High School Combine, sponsored by STX and free of charge for all invitees, offered up one of the more immersive and unique event experiences that the sport’s landscape has seen.
Taking place on the state-of-the-art campus of IMG Academy, the event featured 41 of the top juniors and was staffed with PLL Championship-winning coaches Chris Bates (Utah Archers) and Jim Stagnitta (Maryland Whipsnakes) and a multitude of accomplished PLL pros and STX athletes.
Far from your typical training event, the weekend started on Friday night with an orientation and panel discussion with Bates, Stagnitta, Holman, Harrison, Montgomery, and YouTuber Mitchell Pehlke. The following day, student-athletes were tested in the following categories: vertical jump, broad jump, speed, 40-yard dash, agility (5-10-5 shuttle), strength (pushups and pullups), stick skills (timed wall ball routine), and shot speed before breaking into position-specific testing.
To measure passing prowess, attackmen were tested on total reps for pace, accuracy, and range then asked to make a pass off a dodge to open cutters. To measure shooting, cutting and inside finishing, they were tested on step-downs, question marks, inside rolls, rocker moves, jump shots, and curl and flash cuts to round things out, with all tests completed with both hands. After resting up, players engaged in situational testing and live play, kicking things off with the Genny drill and a Sixes tournament, requiring the defenders to swap out their longpoles for shortsticks.
All in all, the PLL HS Combine was a refreshing addition to the sport’s landscape and an entirely different experience compared to what I’ve become accustomed to in 15 years of attending top events and evaluating high school talent. For me, it was incredibly beneficial to see things from a different point of view and get a better sense of each individual away from the HS, club, and showcase circuit.
Here’s a look at how the three 5-star attackmen fared at the event:
Millon was never going to be the type to blow people away during the athleticism testing. That’s just not who he is, which is perfectly fine considering where he stands in terms of his IQ and overall skills. Beating his man hasn’t been a problem. Millon has all of the parts and can do whatever is asked of him with or without the ball, left or right-handed. Every cut was textbook and every pass was on the money. Millon has always been an outstanding shooter, but watching him up close at IMG, his fundamentally sound shooting stroke stood out that much more. He isn’t resting on his laurels either. I was incredibly impressed with Brendan’s approach toward the event — he asked thoughtful questions, listened, and implemented the feedback he was given, never making the same mistake twice.
Coming out of the weekend, Harrison, the newly minted Hall of Famer, summed Maher up best by saying, ‘ is ALL business. That cat didn’t smile all weekend and was there to compete in EVERYTHING.’ Of course, when it comes to a player of Maher’s caliber (the Penn commit is ranked No. 3 in the class), you expect to see a certain level of drive and competitiveness, but even as someone who has seen him play dozens of times, I was struck by his attention to detail on every rep and his overall desire to compete. He’s just a different animal since it’s uncommon to see a 6’4, 190-pounder move with so much fluidity across the board — he topped all attackmen by running the 5-10-5 shuttle in 4.45 seconds. Shooting the ball with tremendous force, his hands are phenomenal as well. On numerous occasions when he was up top, Maher flung gorgeous skip passes that caused those of us spectating to double over in awe.
Out of the seven 5-star recruits in attendance, a strong argument could be made that Hocker raised his stock the most during his time at the PLL High School Combine. I developed an immense appreciation for the way that the Cincinnati native went about his business like a professional and showed off his athleticism (look no further than his 4.65 forty-yard dash), box lacrosse skill set, and work ethic. For the sake of full transparency, I never felt like Hocker got a fair shake with his evaluation on the summer circuit, given that he played hurt throughout and was never close to 100 percent, thus drawing some skepticism from college coaches who may not have realized the full scope of his health. That being said, I loved what I saw, and there’s no doubt that the format of the event lent itself well to what Hocker brings to the table. Having gained a ton of experience playing box with Resolute, he’s so incredibly dangerous in tight spaces and thrived in the Genny drill and Sixes. With a competitive edge that was always on display, he was meticulous in the way he dodged during positional training and attacked everything head-on.