The family that scores together
UAlbany's Thompson trio leading nation's most potent offense
If you watch the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team, you’ll probably see the name Thompson flash across the screen more than a few times.
With two brothers -– Miles and Lyle -– and cousin Ty Thompson as the Great Danes’ top-three scorers for the nation’s most productive offense, the trio accounts for more than 50 percent of the team’s goals, and 54 percent of UAlbany’s total points.
“It’s a pretty unique situation to have brothers who have played together, but then to add in a cousin who has been playing with them for a long time … I don’t think you could produce that with three attackmen coming from three different parts of the country,” head coach Scott Marr said. “The continuity they have together is all second-hand nature. It just happens.”
The Thompsons are Native Americans and grew up on reservations in New York. Miles and Lyle were raised in Onondaga Nation near Syracuse while Ty grew up in Mohawk Nation, a few hours away. They have all had sticks in their hands since they were old enough to hold them.
The brothers formed a bond through lacrosse early on –- playing with their father Jerome and older siblings Jeremy and Jerome, Jr., in the backyard. Coached by their dad, a former indoor player, they began playing indoor or “box” lacrosse with Ty as tweens.
|NOTE: Stats as of May 3, 2013|
“Growing up with them really helped the chemistry,” Lyle, a sophomore, said. “I’ve been playing with Miles in the backyard since I could pick up a stick, and I’ve been playing with or against Ty ever since I started organized lacrosse. We know each other’s tendencies and I think that has played a big role in our success on the offensive end.”
“We know where each other are at all times,” Ty said. “Even in the tightest spaces we can find each other and throw the ball in there. They play our style here and that was a big reason we came to UAlbany.”
Ty and Miles, who are now juniors, committed to UAlbany first, and Lyle followed the next year. Ty moved up from the midfield to attack, and now all three lead a potent offense that leads the nation with 15.8 goals per game.
While they are the first Native Americans to play for Marr, they are certainly not the first to compete at the Division I level in the game developed by their ancestors. Miles and Lyle’s older brother Jeremy played at Syracuse like several other Native Americans in the past, but the younger brothers wanted to make an impact somewhere different.
Thompsons’ creative style fit has been a perfect fit for Marr’s fast-paced, chaotic offense.
“Coach Marr likes to play a run-and-gun style, and that’s what we grew up playing indoors -– back and forth, back and forth,” Ty said. “With the new rules in place now, I think it really benefits us because our game is fast and we don’t like to slow it down too much. We like to force it and do all these fancy shots –- behind the back and stuff –- and it’s good that Coach Marr accepts that here.”
“We’re more comfortable playing this way,” Miles said.
“They play the way I coach, and they play the way I coach,” Marr said. “We want to be a fast-paced offense and push the ball in transition. I don’t restrict them in their creativity. They’re able to shoot and pass in such non-conventional ways. Their fundamentals are far more reaching than most kids. It’s fun to watch. Practice is just unbelievable some days.”
Plus, this year’s rule changes in NCAA men’s lacrosse to cut down on stalling have helped the Great Danes pick up the pace even more.
“We’ve been playing as fast as we can for years –- it’s always been the way I’ve coached,” Marr said. “In years past, it was easier for teams to hold the ball against us and not get into a running game with us.”
Lyle -– the America East Conference Player of the Year -- has contributed 43 goals and 56 assists, and Ty, who has added 48 goals and 14 assists, are two of the 25 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award, presented to the nation’s top collegiate lacrosse player. Endorsed by the Mohawk Nation Council of Elders and U.S. Lacrosse, the Tewaaraton Award symbolizes lacrosse’s centuries-old roots in Native American heritage.
Miles, who has missed several games battling injuries, has scored 60 points in just 10 games played, including an America East Conference-record 14 points in a 21-12 victory against Stony Brook on April 27, which was his first game back after a three-game absence.
“Lyle, I think, is the best player in the country because of his athleticism and what he can do for us in terms of assisting,” Marr said. “But I think Miles is like our X-factor. We’ve won games without him, but he takes our team to another level. When all three of them are in there and we’re full strength, teams have a very difficult time of playing them together.”
The Great Danes (12-4) began the season with a double-overtime victory at Syracuse, which built their confidence, and after a few hiccups against Drexel and Yale, they went on to win 11 of their next 13 games.
“We really gelled together this year after that first win against Syracuse in the [Carrier] Dome,” Ty said. “That really set the momentum for us and proved we could play with anyone in the nation.”
On April 5, UAlbany defeated then-No. 10 Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field in Baltimore, becoming only the second program in college lacrosse history to beat the Blue Jays and Syracuse on the road in the same season.
“I think the chemistry of the team, plus having these three unique players –- the others have risen to the level of their play,” Marr said. “We talked to [the Thompsons] before they got here about how they have the ability to make everyone else around them better. The confidence level they play with has now gone through the entire team. They just don’t want to be denied getting to the next level.”
After surviving a 17-15 scare against Stony Brook in the America East Conference semifinals on Thursday night, the Great Danes advance to the league championship game against UMBC on Saturday. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 10 a.m.
With a victory in the America East title game on Saturday, the Great Danes can secure an automatic berth to NCAA Championship. It would be their first NCAA appearance since 2007.
And, while the Thompsons want to win for their team, they are also playing for their fellow Native Americans. They want to be an example for the younger generation, especially up-and-coming lacrosse players.
“They are definitely trying to be role models for other Native American kids on the reservation, and showing them they can go to school and get an education, and then go back to the reservation and make a difference in other kids’ lives,” Marr said.
“There’s a lot of talent on the reservation, but the kids don’t know about college,” Lyle said. “It’s never a thought to them … they never consider it. I want to play a role in helping others get an education and be able to play Division I lacrosse.”
So far, they are setting one heck of an example.