Tehoka Nanticoke made SportsCenter’s Top 10 last spring with what might have been the Lacrosse Goal of the Year – a spin between two defenders into a behind-the-back shot that one-hopped into the net.
Nanticoke’s magic has been on display for IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) for the last three years and before that while in school on a reservation as part of the Six Nations in Canada. Next up is the University at Albany.
He will finish his high school career next week as IMG is among the eight teams in the inaugural GEICO High School Lacrosse Nationals in Washington, D.C. IMG faces the Christ School (Arden, N.C.), the North Carolina independent schools Division I champion in the quarterfinals on Sunday. Expect more wizardry.
“He has a few more tricks up his sleeve per se that he will continue to break out at the next level,” IMG coach Jason Basso said. “He works on new moves and different ways to get to the goal and set teammates up. He’s always thinking, looking to do new things and do better.”
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Nanticoke says he had a stick in his hand “from when I was born” and said he started playing at 3. He credits an older brother for his style.
“He really brought me up with the game and taught me everything I know,” Nanticoke said. “He’s always trying to tell me to find different cool ways to score. Coming (to IMG) helped me realize there are different ways I can use and different shots.”
“The Wizard” of high school lacrosse, Nanticoke has made his teammates better along the way as IMG has further solidified itself among the top tier of elite programs. Basso points to Nanticoke and his unique skills as helping to make the players around him better.
“With his vision of the field and what he can do with other teammates around him — just throwing all kinds of passes from all types of angles — everyone around him has grown and excelled with him,” Basso said. “It’s really cool because of a lot of his teammates see the things he’s doing and try to emulate them and raise their game.
“It’s nice to have someone of that caliber out there at practice, either playing with him or defending him on the offensive end, because he’s such a special talent.”
Nanticoke says “his ability to find the open guy to finish” is among his best skills, but he wants to continue to develop his vision on the field. He says he needs to keep his head up more so he can see the cutters more quickly.
The IMG coaches had heard about Nanticoke’s skills three years ago and then he visited campus for the first time during the IMG Nationals with the Thunder Tribe team, a traveling youth field lacrosse program. The coaches learned more about him and showed him the facilities. The conversations continued when he returned home and he decided to transfer.
“Being at IMG helped me improve my outdoor game and showed me more of the American game,” he said. “It’s also helped me to use the field more and do different things with a bigger net. The way I’m training here for the past three years has allowed me to grow as a person and being here I really found that I loved lifting weights.
“For school, it really helped me to be a better person and got me ready for college, showing up every day, being on time and doing my assignment. Back in my old school, we didn’t have a lot of homework.”
After some national team commitments, he will train at IMG over the summer before reporting to Albany, which reached the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to Maryland last weekend.
“I was watching the game. I loved it,” he said. “It wasn’t the ending we wanted, but it was great for them to get back to the quarterfinals for the third time in four years. Watching that is helping me to be ready for next year because I want to keep playing deep into May.”
Before college, though, he hopes to close out his high school career as champions of the first GEICO Nationals. That could involve a chance to avenge IMG’s only loss to Hill Academy. IMG is the No. 1 seed and Hill is No. 2, so a meeting would not happen until the title game.
“Playing in the first tournament is going to be exciting,” he said. “Most of us did not expect this at all. After the last game, we thought we were done. Having this opportunity to play on national television has helped motivate us to train every day to be ready.”