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Trio Of Penn State Men’s Lacrosse Stars Vying For 2021 PLL Draft Spots

Since its inception, the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) has revolutionized the game of lacrosse at the professional level. The new league has attracted the biggest names in the sport and quickly become the prime destination for players hoping to play at the next level.

Penn Staters such as Grant Ament, Drew Adams, Chris Sabia, and, most recently, Chris Hogan, have found homes on PLL rosters. With the fast-approaching PLL College Draft set to take place April 26, we decided to take a look at some of the current Nittany Lions that could have their names called on draft day.

Mac O’Keefe

O’Keefe is both Penn State’s best prospect and perhaps one of the best players in the entire draft.

The Syosset, New York native broke the record for the most career goals in NCAA history last Friday versus Michigan. The record-breaking score, along with the other five goals in that game, showcased his best attribute: his goal-scoring ability.

O’Keefe’s patented underhand shot has helped him become so dominant. His shot is a combination of lightning-fast speed mixed with deadly accuracy. His unique underhand approach also throws goalies for a twist, as most traditional shots come from either an overhand or sidearm position. The underhand shot also allows O’Keefe to have different release points, as illustrated by his record-breaking 213th career goal, where he opted to short-arm the shot.

Compare that goal to his overtime winner from the same game in which O’Keefe uncorked one from distance with a more long-arm release on the shot. The variety of shots mixed with his shooting style makes his shots so hard for goalies to read and save.

“Obviously the best thing I do is shooting,” O’Keefe said. “I’m great when it comes to getting my hands free.”

O’Keefe’s shot is great, but some fear he is too much of a one-dimensional player. O’Keefe isn’t an elite dodger, and most of his success in college has come when he has an offensive quarterback like Grant Ament to work with. It’s a fair assessment of O’Keefe based on previous years, but the struggles of this past season have forced him to change his role and revolutionize his game.

“What people don’t see is what I do to get open,” O’Keefe said. “It’s a lot of off-ball stuff.”

In previous seasons, O’Keefe has been able to rely on his teammates to create those spaces that drag defenders off of him, leaving him wide open to release his wicked shot. It’s been subtle movements off the ball and different types of cuts in the offensive side of the field that has allowed O’Keefe to find his opportunities and create opportunities for his teammates this season.

“I try and do all the little things to help my team out, and I know that will translate to the next level,” O’Keefe said.

He still has work to do when it comes to refining smaller aspects of his game, but O’Keefe’s elite shot makes him a can’t-miss prospect. He doesn’t have the all-around game that puts him up on the draft board with the likes of Michael Sowers from Duke or Jared Bernhardt from Maryland, but expect to hear O’Keefe’s name called sooner rather than later.

Prediction: Round 1, Pick 7, Whipsnakes LC

Nick Cardile

After O’Keefe, there is no guarantee that another Nittany Lion would be picked in this draft, but Cardile is a good option.

The Nittany Lion captain entered the 2020 season as a second-team All-American before seeing the season ended abruptly due to the pandemic. In 2021, despite Penn State’s defensive struggles, Cardile has been a calming presence on the back end for the Nittany Lions.

James Riccardo | Onward State

“Whenever things are clicking defensively, it’s usually Nick leading the charge,” head coach Jeff Tambroni said.

Cardile is usually that player that Tambroni and his staff turn to match up with the big-time attacking players that litter the Big Ten. So far in 2021, he has 17 ground balls and nine forced turnovers. Cardile also earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors following the Nittany Lions’ victory over Johns Hopkins on March 28.

If we were to guess, Cardile may be a late-round pick. He’s a solid player that can contribute at the next level, but there are more talented players that will be taken in front of him. A team like Cannons LC, which is still building up its roster for its inaugural season, could use his services as a reliable depth piece.

Prediction: Round 4, Pick 25, Cannons LC

Gerard Arceri

Arceri has been an elite face-off guy at the college level since arriving at Penn State back in 2017. The St. James, New York native has not had a season face-off percentage fall below 50% during his time in Happy Valley.

If you needed to guess when and where Arceri would go before the start of the season, it would be safe to assume he would be an automatic lock to have his name called come draft day. But the graduate student has struggled at the face-off X in 2021.

Max Temple | Onward State

Arceri has won 56% of his draws this season — the lowest total in his college career only behind his 54% winning percentage from the shortened 2020 season. That’s not a bad mark, but it’s a far cry from the 2018 season when he won almost 70% of his draws.

Arceri can be an effective player at the next level, but it seems Arceri may become a victim of a talented draft class, the same way Cardile may become. TD Ierlan, who dominated Arceri during the 2019 Final Four when he was with Yale and was the first pick in the 2020 MLL draft, and Kyle Gallagher of Notre Dame will most likely be the first and only face-off men off the board in the draft.

That most likely leaves Arceri’s name uncalled, but don’t be surprised if he finds a home in the PLL or another league shortly after the draft.

Prediction: Undrafted

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About the Author

Connor Donohue

Connor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from the great state of New Jersey and is proud of it. Lover of the greatest city in the world, New York City, he strongly dislikes the city of Philadelphia and will not hesitate to tell you that. He's also been cursed as a Penn State fan since birth. If you want to call him a bum or maybe go out on a date with him, follow him on twitter @ConnorDonohue00 or email him at [email protected]

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