Remember the 160 lb. freshman who flanked Lyle Thompson during his second Tewaaraton season? Well, that kid is making a case for a Tewaaraton Award of his own. Albany’s Connor Fields is leading the nation with 7.50 PPG, and the way in which he’s doing it is even more impressive than the stats suggest.
It feels odd to refer to someone who entered the season with 161 points as “underrated.” In the sense that he hasn’t yet sat shotgun for a car ride with Paul Carcaterra, yes, Fields is underrated. (Yo Carc, fix this!) Last year’s Tewaaraton winner (Dylan Molloy) and finalists (Connor Cannizzaro and Ben Reeves) get most of the national attention, but Fields has the Great Danes offense roaring (2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency per Patrick McEwen).
Fields can carve up a defense in so many ways that it’s unfair; a player with one aspect of his skillset could be an All-American. Like Lyle, he has the power and patience to post up a defender and bait a slide. He knows you want to double his blindside, and he uses that against you. He’ll roll to the outside only to take the middle of the field as soon as a defender vacates it. It’s tempting to chase his stick when you see him wave it; this Cornell defender whiffed three times in one play swinging for homerun checks.
My favorite aspect of Fields’ post-ups: his left-handedness. Look at all those spot-up shooters on the weak-side with their sticks to the middle of the field. When Lyle would work on the opposite side of the field, his right-handed teammates either had to shoot with their off-hand or shoot with worse angles.
Below goal-line extended, Fields faces up defenders and runs by them with ease. Though he’s a lefty, he can push the cage to either side. There are very few tendencies or patterns to his dodges; so few that on-ball defenders have to worry about everything. Is Fields going right? Left? Is there a pick coming? Will he even use it if there is? While his man is searching for answers to those questions, Fields is flooring the gas pedal and winning the race to goal-line extended.
Every Tewaaraton candidate needs a supporting cast. Fields has a left-handed low-to-high sniper in Sean Eccles (42.9% career shooter), a right-handed Canadian scorer in Bennett Drake (44.7% career shooter), a change-of-pace quarterback in Justin Reh (34 assists in 28 career games) and a stable of two-way midfielders ready to run transition two-man games and win substitution battles.
Fields’ head is always up while he’s dodging -- especially when he draws a short-stick and the defense slips into an invert zone. He has that extra mental gear to his game that you see from passers like Pat Spencer and Ben Reeves. Beating his man isn’t enough; Fields focuses on where he beats his man. If he sprints to goal-line extended here, then he’d win the race -- but he’d run right into the teeth of that invert zone. He wants to make the slide as long as possible, so he opts for the quick change-of-direction move rather than trying to run by his man.
Having a high-usage Tewaaraton candidate is nothing new for Albany. Fields (30 points, 48.3% shooting, 16-to-11 assist-to-turnover ratio) is on pace to join this group: The 50-40-1 Club (table below). Only 15 players have had 50-40-1 seasons since 2013. Lyle, Johns Hopkins attackman Shack Stanwick and Marist attackman (and Fields’ high school teammate) JD Recor have done it twice each.
If Fields can match Lyle’s unheard of efficiency for an entire season, then this Great Danes team has a serious chance to make a Memorial Day run. During Lyle’s time in Albany, the Danes faced off at 45.2%; it’s only been four games, but the Danes are winning 59.8% of face-offs so far this season. They’re seeing 5.5 more possessions per game than their opponents, nearly twice the advantage (3.3) that the Danes saw during Lyle’s senior year. (The Danes had only 0.4 more possessions per game than their opponents during the 2014 Lyle-Miles-Ty season.) Because of that edge at the X, Albany is playing less defense -- and better defense -- than ever.
It takes time for a program to reach the pinnacle of the sport. When it does, prior classes can take pride in the role they played. Marcus Holman (‘13) and Joey Sankey (‘15) were instrumental to UNC’s 2016 championship run. Mark Matthews (‘12), Eric Law (‘13) and Jeremy Noble (‘14) laid the foundation for the 2015 Denver Pioneers. Can Fields fulfill Lyle’s legacy?
50 pt, 40.0 sh%, 1 A-to-TO club
|Mike Rooney||Stony Brook||M||2015||Sr||48||117||41.0%||63||29||2.17||111|
|Matt Schultz||Stony Brook||A||2016||Sr||40||86||46.5%||22||8||2.75||62|
|Challen Rogers||Stony Brook||M||2016||Sr||22||50||44.0%||37||22||1.68||59|
|Shack Stanwick||Johns Hopkins||A||2016||So||20||49||40.8%||38||22||1.73||58|
|Shack Stanwick||Johns Hopkins||A||2015||Fr||28||59||47.5%||23||16||1.44||51|