Jordi Jones-Smith has no question what his focus is this weekend, but starting Monday it will definitely change. “Right now my biggest focus is winning a national championship with my team, Jones-Smith says. “After that, I'm going to be in the gym every day working to make my dream of making the NLL come true.”
Jones-Smith is at the Baggataway Cup with the Western Mustangs, where he will play a key role if the school is to bring home its first CUFLA title since 2001. The midfielder had a career year in 2015, almost doubling his previous scoring high by notching 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points. That production, good for third on the team, helped Western to finish first in the West Division and earn a bye to the Baggataway Cup semifinals on Saturday, where they will play the winner of Friday's quarterfinal between Bishop's and Guelph.
Jones-Smith is also one of three CUFLA players selected in this year's National Lacrosse League Entry Draft, taken with the first pick of the sixth round (48th overall) by the New England Black Wolves. The others are University of Toronto attack Mitch De Snoo (13th overall to the Calgary Roughnecks) and McMaster University midfielder Jamie Batten (53rd overall to the Toronto Rock).
A defender in box lacrosse, Jones-Smith is a long-shot to make the Black Wolves as a late-round pick but he does have a shot: New England finished last in the NLL in 2015 and need to upgrade their defence. The fourth-year criminology major says his plan is to be as prepared as he can be and work to make an impression when he gets his chance. “Hopefully they see something that they like. I'm just going to bring it all at the camp,” he says.
It helps that Jones-Smith has had a chance to work with coaches like Derek Keenan and Dan Ladouceur with his junior team, the Whitby Warriors. Both are coaches in the NLL and both know what it takes to succeed at that level. Jones-Smith says being coached by guys like that has helped him develop. “I'm a pretty gritty player. I also play very well within a coaching system,” he says.
Before he shifts his lacrosse focus to the NLL, though, Jones-Smith has some unfinished business with Western. This is the second time in his four years the Mustangs have finished first in the West and the other two years they finished second. They have yet to win a title, though, reaching the final once in 2012 where they fell to McGill by a single goal. Last year, the Redmen knocked them out in the semis with a 15-6 trouncing.
Western, led by coach Jeremy Tallevi, intend to make things different this year. They come into the Baggataway with CUFLA's second-highest scoring team and having allowed the third-fewest goals. Jones-Smith says the Mustangs offensive success comes from cohesiveness and speed. “We work very well as a unit and we're really quick.”
Personally, his improvement can be traced to the basics: hard work and experience. “I've played a bigger role every year,” he says. “I've been working on my game as much as possible. The older I've grown the stronger I've become and I've been able to get used to how to play in the league.”
It's a league he's glad to be a part of. With so many young players looking to head south to the United States, Jones-Smith says that was a consideration. “I did think about going to the States. I joined a couple of travel teams. I decided with a Canadian school. I love it. I don't regret my decision at all. I love playing in the Coof.”
Western has been perfect, Jones-Smith says. “When i first did the tour i loved the campus. It's a great school for academics. It just fit my personality; it fit who I am. It's a hardworking school and they play hard too.”
He may well be back for a while, too. Jones-Smith figures he'll do a fifth year to prepare for applying to law school, and if he had his druthers he'd do that at Western, too. All of that, like the NLL, is in the future, though. For now his focus is right where it should be: on the field at Bishop's University working to win the Baggataway Cup.
De Snoo won't be at this year's Baggataway final six, but he's enjoyed his CUFLA experience as well. After completing a degree in biomedical engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, De Snoo is at U of T doing a masters degree. His options are to transfer to a PhD program after the first year or, as he currently intends, completing the degree before going to med school. U of T is “the best school for medical research in Canada,” De Snoo says. One of the reasons he's back for a masters is that earning his undergraduate degree at an American college puts him at a disadvantage for getting into a Canadian med school.
De Snoo has a real chance to make the Roughnecks roster this year. A defender in box lacrosse, he was Calgary's first pick on that side of the ball in a year where they are anticipating a lot of turnover on defence. The team is anticipating that he'll bring the kind of solid D and transition ability that he has displayed with Major Series Lacrosse's Oakville Rock the last two summers.
De Snoo's lacrosse career is a bit of a dichotomy. While he's a steady defensive presence inside, De Snoo's role on the field is very different. He led all CUFLA players with 35 goals this fall. His coaches asked him to fill the net at every opportunity to help make up for the loss of about 90% of the goals the team scored last year to graduation and injury issues.
The pressure didn't bother him, and the pressure of going to Calgary with expectations that he take the place of either retired captain Andrew McBride or departed free agent stalwart Jeff Moleski doesn't bother him either. “I'm not scared of there being super high expectations,” De Snoo says. He places high expectations on himself, anyway.
Being drafted was no surprise for De Snoo—he was rated as one of the top prospects for the draft. For Jamie Batten, it was a little different. The Rock had called him before the draft to see if he wanted to be selected and he replied that he really didn't want to. But they took him anyway because they liked what they saw in his play with the Jr B Halton Hills Bulldogs.
The fourth-year biology student at McMaster wants to keep his options open for grad school either north or south of the border. He played for Mac in 2012 then missed 2013 with an injury and didn't play last year, either. The big difference he sees with the Marauders this time around is cohesiveness. “It's a better team atmosphere, a team-first mentality now,” Batten says.
The difference showed in the team's results: back in 2012 they won only two games but this year McMaster went 5-7 and was competitive with the top teams in the division. Taking one of them down will be the Marauders goal next fall.
For De Snoo and Batten, next fall is what they have to look forward to on the lacrosse field. For Jones-Smith, his first order of business comes this weekend. ?