The NCDA has done a lot of growing in the past few years. Not only in size, but in talent as well. While the league may still be dominated by the state of Michigan, it is clear that things are slowly evening out. With these changes come other ones that most people may wish didn’t have to happen. This year held a graduating class of legendary proportions in my personal opinion. With all of these members moving on to bigger and better things, it only seems appropriate to reflect on the past, and look to the future of the league.
Looking at the NCDA graduating class this year, it is unreal some of the names that are on this list. I may not hit all of them, but I’m going to try and give mention to everyone that I think was a key part in helping their team become more competitive, or helped them stay at the top. (These people are in no particular order, I’m just going team by team).
1. Mark Trippiedi (GVSU) – There’s really not much that can be said about Mark that hasn’t been said already. Instead of regurgitating stuff that most people already know, I’ll give my own take this. Trippiedi is a class act on an off the court, who has done great things while at Grand Valley. He’s kept the team either at the top, or near the top of the league, which is hard to do, even if he does play for a school like GV. With a well rounded skill set, I’m certain the Lakers will miss him as he moves on with his life.
2. Spencer Jardine (SVSU) – Easily one of the most competitive players in the league, Spencer has spent much more time in the NCDA than your average person. Having a highlight reel career, I can only say that I will believe his career is done when he is not on the court next year.
3. Mike Van Ermen (MSU) – The fiery Great Bringer of Doom’s career has finally come to a close. Van Ermen, who captained his team to a great post-season run after a rough start to the season, has put in a ton of time into his team, and the league. Unfortunately, Mike was unable to bring a championship back to East Lansing, but I’d say that he is absolutely a championship caliber player.
4. Alex Swedowski (UWP) – Can a guy who wears long sleeve tiger stripe undershirts to tournaments be called anything other than awesome? I think not. Alex is one of the few guys from a team west of Ohio that I actually had a chance to play against, and it was more than I expected. The first time I saw Swedowski at Nationals 2013 he was more of a player than a leader, but when I saw him this year he had clearly evolved into just that. UWP will have a hard time finding a guy like Alex again.
5. Dan Shackelford (Kent) – Dan is the kind of guy that I believe any person would want to play with. He knows how to direct his team into positions that will help them succeed, and can morph his game for the same purpose. I’ve seen Dan play in games where he knows he has to throw more than anything else, and then switch it up in his next match and become more of a catcher. I may not know much about Kent’s past, or what’s to come in their future, but Shackelford’s work has put them at the pinnacle of their success so far in my mind.
6. Cam Fullmer (Kent) – Every time I see Cam play, the more I am dumbfounded by what he can do. I’ve seen guys able to throw at absurd speeds, trick shots, use both hands, but I’ve never seen anyone who can throw at ridiculous speeds with both hands until I played against Kent. Not only can Cam throw, but he’s a very good catcher as well, making some tough catches as nonchalantly as an MLB player catches a pop fly. As fun as it is playing against Kent when Cam is on the floor, my face is thankful its time for him to hang his jersey up.
7. Bill Cameron/Ryan Hinman (Kent) – I could put these guys in separate spots on their own, but since both have fairly similar styles I thought they deserved to be grouped together. Both Billy and Ryan are incredible blockers with both willing to sit on the front lines and tell the hardest throwers on the other teams, “come at us bro.” Both also have underrated throwing/catching abilities that were never used much due them both having a great understanding of their top strengths and consistently playing to them. Even though they were not captains, they will be sorely missed.
8. Ryan Carlton (OSU) – Carlton would make this list for no reason other than putting up with the insanity of setting up a national tournament for us. Outside of that, Carlton helped his team begin the process of getting the Buckeyes back to the top tier of the league by putting together talented rosters and being a great catcher while on the court. I can personally say I am disappointed that if I get a chance to play Ohio State in a rematch of our pool play game, that Ryan will not be on the opposite side of the court to me.
9. Felix Perrone (WKU) – Is there anything Felix hasn’t done for the league or his team? If there is I don’t know of it yet. I’ll keep this short but not because Perrone is lacking in available accolades. Being a constant leader for the Hilltoppers, Felix is a great player, with an even greater mindset to the game. I’m certain we will see him at Nationals WKU 2015, but it will be strange seeing him on the Alumni side of the Alumni v. Players game. On a side note, at least we’re giving him less chances to pop his shoulder out.
10. Andrew Hassett (JMU) – In a team full of talent, Hassett was a standout player. Leading by example, I knew Andrew as a guy who put relentless pressure on opposing teams, making it very clear he didn’t care where he hit you, as long as you knew who it was that just nailed you. Even though the Dukes are stocked with talent and may find a solid person to step in for him next year, any team in this league would be hurt by the loss of a player like Andrew.
11. Shadeed Drakeford (VCU) – Most people in the NCDA have never had a chance to play against the Rams, which is unfortunate, but not due to a lack of effort from Shadeed. Much like how Carlton deserves to be on this list due to a lot of off the court effort, Shadeed deserves to be on here for the sole ability to get a team at VCU started; especially on the east coast where most schools are dominated by clubs like lacrosse, rugby and ultimate frisbee. Its a credit Drakeford’s marketing abilities to get at least 15-20 guys together who want to pick up big rubber balls and hurl them at each other. Hopefully VCU’s new leadership will be able to get them able to travel more, but no matter what they do in the future, none of it would be possible without Shadeed’s work.
These are obviously not all the people who graduated this past year, but these are the top people who came to my mind. In my mind this list would make a fantastic inaugural class into an NCDA Hall of Fame if we had one.
With that being said, the future of the league seems to be in good hands with all of its new leaders, so hopefully lists like this will only grow bigger.