- Jason Dill
Lacrosse star Tehoka Nanticoke builds career one highlight at a time
BRADENTON -- It was a twist between two defenders, before a behind-the-back and through-the-legs shot against another defender that one-hopped into the net that garnered national attention recently for Tehoka Nanticoke.
The IMG Academy senior lacrosse player landed himself on ESPN Sportscenter's Top 10 plays list with the No. 2 play of the night following the highlight-reel goal.
"It was pretty crazy; I didn't expect that," Nanticoke said. "It just happened really quick with the position of my stick, and I just shot it. Seeing it on ESPN was pretty cool."
While it was a shock to Nanticoke to make ESPN, the play is something the coaches at IMG Academy see from the attacker on a regular basis during training sessions.
"He'll do things and the coaches will look at each other and go, 'Did you see that,'" Bill Shatz lacrosse director said. "Oftentimes there's highlights that never make it on ESPN that are just as fascinating and exciting as he did on that one particular play."
Nanticoke has several college offers, but he hasn't decided where he wants to play at the next level.
But long before Nanticoke's arrival on ESPN and the college recruiting radar, he spent his youth on a reservation as part of the Six Nations in Canada. A Mohawk Native American, Nanticoke is a member of the Iroquois Confederacy and grew up in a single-mother household.
While Nanticoke said it was difficult growing up without a father, his older brother, Chauncey Hill, became that figure in his life.
"My brother was really the male role model in my life," Nanticoke said. "And he took the time out of his teenager life to teach me everything I know about lacrosse."
Lacrosse is widely considered the first sport of North America and was a Native American creation. Simply put, it's in Nanticoke's blood.
"Since I could hold a stick, I've had a stick in my hands," he said.
He began playing at the age of 3.
Nanticoke said his older brother always told him he'd be something in the sport.
It clicked in 2008 when he played an age group above his age for Team Iroquois at the Canadian National Championships.
Eventually, though, Nanticoke needed a place to improve his academics due to the difference in level between the education from his old school, which was setting him up for the junior college route, and what is expected at top-level universities.
Due to the relationship Shatz developed several years ago with the Native American leadership in the sport at the Onondaga Nation, Nanticoke landed at IMG Academy.
Shatz said Nanticoke has turned himself from a C student to one who gets A's and B's during his two years in Bradenton. But it isn't just his academic achievements that makes him a viable college target. It's his talent on the lacrosse field.
Nanticoke said he just loves playing the game for how much fun it is.
Shatz added he's a humble and unselfish player.
Entering Saturday, Nanticoke averaged 4.6 points per game with 32 goals and 19 assists this season.
He's the latest in a wave of Native Americans who have left their mark on the sport. The Thompsons, brothers Miles and Lyle and cousin Ty, starred at the University of Albany. That same school has two Native Americans, Cougar Kirby and Colyn Lyons, on this season's roster after playing at IMG.
And when Nanticoke is on a lacrosse field, his heritage is displayed through the ponytail whipping through the back of his helmet.
"It was our culture and it's what all our people had back in the day," Nanticoke said. "It was long hair until the white people came over, and cut their hair and put them in residential schools and stuff. So I just have my long hair to show that there are still Natives out there playing the game of the lacrosse."
His bond to his culture, though, has also drawn derogatory comments.
"We live in a day and age now there's a very big social consciousness about racism, and you hear it now, and even a political correctness," Shatz said. "Yet I'm amazed at how many people are ignorant about the Native American community, their relationship to the sport and when we play you'll often hear racial epithets thrown at our Native American players merely because they are out there playing for the love of the game and to represent their family and community. We feel a certain protection for these students and a need to educate, because racism is a form of ignorance."
Shatz added several people in the stands have pointed out and complimented Tehoka due to his appearance on Sportscenter and how good he is on the field.
That talent likely means a spot on the Iroquois U-19 team for this summer's World Championships in British Columbia, Canada. One thing is certain, though: Nanticoke's penchant for creative plays and sheer joy for the game.
"There's a little bit of a rock star thing going on sometimes," Shatz said. " There's that element that seems to be growing even here at the high school level, so I can only imagine when he does reach the college level what will happen next."
Credit to: Bradenton Herald