Canadian import with big impact

Lacrosse: For John Grant, who leads the country in goals and points, there was a period of adjustment to the outdoor game and with his Delaware teammates.

April 28, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Delaware's John Grant leads college lacrosse in goals, points scored and unexpected detours.

After rejections by his first two college choices because of academics, Grant made forgettable stops at junior colleges in New York and Canada over the next three years and resisted some strong temptations to bag college for the professional indoor game.

Then, in 1997, Grant learned that he needed just one more credit over the winter semester to play for Syracuse and follow such childhood idols as the Gait brothers and Tom Marechek. Just one problem: Grant had signed a letter of intent for Delaware in November 1996.

"Syracuse was a dream, and, initially, I was definitely bummed," said Grant, a senior left-handed attackman from Peterborough, Ontario. "But once I got to Delaware, I forgot about it."

So instead of playing for an Orangemen program that has been to 16 straight Final Fours, Grant landed with the Fightin' Blue Hens, who haven't been to the NCAA tournament in 16 years.

But Delaware also has never had anyone quite like, a national Player of the Year can didate.

In his first season with the Blue Hens in 1998, he racked up a team-leading 67 points (40 goals, 27 assists) as Delaware finished 9-6, a six-win improvement from the previous year. Now, Grant ranks first nationally in goals (40) and second in assists (37), carrying the No. 7 Blue Hens (10-1) to one of Grant their best seasons in school history.

Today, Grant takes his 3.6 goals-per-game average to No. 1 Loyola (3 p.m.), the nation's top-ranked defense, which limits opponents to 5.8 goals as a team. The Greyhounds are the only team to shut out Grant in his 26-game career.

"Let's put it this way: If we didn't have John, we'd be in good shape. But John really takes us to a different level," said Delaware assistant Andy Shay, who coached Grant in 1995 at Morrisville Junior College, about a 45-minute drive from Syracuse. "Teams come into games thinking: How can we stop him and what can we possibly do?"

Give Grant some room and it's target practice. He has converted 40 of his 96 shots (42 percent).

Double- or triple-team him and it's even better for Grant. Growing up as a box lacrosse player, he works best in cramped situations where he can showcase his skills.

He flips no-look, behind-the-back passes on reflex. He makes one-handed catches along a crowded crease and still gets off the shot. He makes defenses look silly by manipulating them with an assortment of stick fakes.

"To the casual observer, it might appear flashy, but most of it's functional," Shay said.

It's taken time, though, for Grant to refine his unorthodox skills to fit the outdoor game.

Used to a shot clock, Grant would rush his shots and cause numerous turnovers. The slower pace also tested Grant's attention span.

Then there was the adjustment period with his teammates. Not expecting some of Grant's unique feeds, they would get hit in the helmet during practices.

"He was playing box on grass," Shay said. "I think part of the reasons why his numbers have gone up is his teammates have learned where to be."

Ah, his numbers.

Grant has led Delaware in goals in seven of 11 games. But only he can top that, recording team-high assists eight times this season.

He has two five-goal games to go along with five four-goal contests. Then look back at his assists, which have increased after two seven-assist performances the past 2 1/2 weeks.

These types of outputs have placed Grant just one point shy of the school single-season record of 78 by Anthony DiMarzo in 1996. And Grant still has four regular-season games remaining.

It's been a long, winding road that has ended with Grant's putting Delaware back on the lacrosse map.

Grant's stats

The game-by-game total for Delaware attackman John Grant, who ranks first in the nation in goals scored and second in assists:

Opponent G A Pts

Gannon 5* 4* 9

Hartford 3 3* 6

Hofstra 4* 1 5

Butler 2 1 3

Mt. St. Mary's 4* 3* 7

Navy 4* 4* 8

Rutgers 5* 5* 10

Towson 2 7* 9

Georgetown 3* 1* 4

North Carolina 4 7* 11

Penn State 4* 1 5

Totals 40 37 77

*Led team

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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