Ben French ’16 had his plan all mapped out. He would finish up his high school career at St. Michael’s (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and head south, after graduation, to one of the popular academic and lacrosse rich New England preparatory high schools, before heading to college. The original plan was similar to that of his older brother Joe French ‘14.
Joe starred at Deerfield Academy this past season and helped Deerfield to Western New England Conference Championship. After a decorated career at St. Mike’s and a PG year at Deerfield Joe will next play at Virginia next year for Head Coach Dom Starsia and the Cavaliers.
Ben’s plan sounded well and good until the talented young attackman and his family visited IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida to get a first hand look at the campus and the school’s offerings.
“We initially visited IMG to learn more about their postgraduate program,” French told Mass Prep Stars. “I then realized that I would really benefit from transferring over for my junior year of high school year.”
The decision was not an easy one for the 5-foot-11, 185 lb. French. However, the ability to focus on elite athletics and the sports science academic component at IMG provided a unique and exciting opportunity that proved difficult to pass up. French, who will enter IMG as a junior, plans to also do a PG year as well at IMG, thus reclassifying to the Class of 2016.
“For me, becoming a better lacrosse player means becoming a better athlete,” French said. “I know IMG Academy can help me with that. I really liked the St. Mike's lacrosse program, the coaches and the guys, so leaving before graduation was not an easy decision for my family or me.”
French is no stranger to early lacrosse success as he has already won a Canadian box National hampionship in 2011 and will play for National Championships in both box and field lacrosse this summer. French also led St. Mike’s in scoring his sophomore season after finishing third in points his freshman year. Recently French led all scorers’ with three goals in the Denver shootout all-star game.
“Being a Canadian and growing up playing box lacrosse I like to think of myself as being a threat around the net and being able to catch the ball in tight,” French said. “I also think box lacrosse was key factor in developing my lacrosse IQ.”
French, who began playing lacrosse at age five grew up in the game. He attributes much of his skill development to his lacrosse rich family, led by father Dean, who has been instrumental in leadership positions for Team Canada Lacrosse, along with brother Joe.
“My dad was my first field lacrosse coach and I can remember traveling down to Ithaca, NY to play in the Turkey Shoot tournament,” French said. We won the championship game wearing hockey helmets because that is what you wear in box. Although my dad's involvement with Team Canada Lacrosse has allowed me to travel with the team and spend time with players that I really look up to, I think the best thing our parents did was put lacrosse nets up in our back yard. Instead of just picking up our sticks before a game or practice, my brother Joe and I got better by playing pick up games against each other. It is just something we have fun doing."
"We still spend a lot of time in the back yard playing catch and shooting on both the 4x4 box and 6x6 field lacrosse nets," French explained. "I think that has helped both of us become better lacrosse players. My younger sister Emily also plays lacrosse and she is starting to join us in the backyard. She plays a mean defense.”
Joe is a right-handed attackman, who possessed one of the best shots in New England lacrosse this past season. Ben is a natural left handed attackman who may have some of the best vision and feeding skills in his class. While both use there big frames to create scoring opportunities Ben’s field vision and lacrosse IQ are what separates him from the pack in the Class of 2016.
"Ben is first and foremost a great teammate,” Joe French said of his younger brother. “He is team oriented, and far beyond his years as a leader. His talent speaks for itself, and this spring he was selected to play for a National Championship in both field and box on Team Ontario, something I was never able to accomplish. Ben is a competitor and I have very high expectations for him as player and person during the next years of his career."
While New England and Massachusetts lacrosse may not get to see a lot of Ben French first-hand, we will certainly be keeping a close on eye on the young stars progression.