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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Zach Cole drafted in 3rd round of NLL Draft

Cole is a two time All-American and earned NEC Player of the Year Honors in 2022. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’23/THE HAWK

On Sept. 10, fifth-year face-off specialist Zach Cole was selected by the Las Vegas Desert Dogs with the 44th overall pick (round three, pick one ) in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) Entry Draft.

Cole is the fifth draft pick in the history of the franchise, as Las Vegas is an expansion franchise who will be playing their first season in 2023 and will be the 15th team in the NLL. 

The Mount Laurel, New Jersey native has racked up numerous accolades during his time on Hawk Hill, including 2019 Northeast Conference (NEC) Rookie of the Year, 2021 and 2022 NEC Player of the Year, 2021 USILA Third Team All-American and 2022 USILA Second Team All American, among others. 

According to Cole, joining the Desert Dogs, along with accepting a full-time job with Deloitte next fall, is something he is very much looking forward to.

“It’s a really cool experience to be a part of an expansion team,” Cole said. “I’m really looking forward to getting started with them next year.”

Cole has been one of the nation’s best face-off specialists during his time on Hawk Hill, and Head Coach Taylor Wray said the mentality and skill set needed to succeed at the next level are the same as the collegiate level.

“If you want to be good at your sport, you need to enjoy doing the work,” Wray said. “You need to bring a level of excitement and enthusiasm and hard work to practice each day and have a competitive fire that keeps you going.”

According to Wray, Cole is the right type of guy for a budding franchise to have, because he is a very self-motivated individual who will bring the same focus and intensity to every practice.

“Zach treats his craft like a professional already,” Wray said. “He does not need much external motivation to get him to take the time to do the work.”

Assistant Coach Mike Rastivo ’17 said Zach is always looking to be better, even when he’s performing at an elite level.

“Zach does a great job of being his own biggest critic,” Rastivo said. “He always comes off after every rep in games and wants to see the iPad, see how he can improve his form.”

According to Rastivo, Cole is looking for ways to improve other aspects of his offensive game as well.

“He definitely picks my brain a lot on the offensive end about how he could become a better shooter and really capitalize on the fact that he anticipates winning a lot of those face-offs,” Rastivo said.

Cole will need to continue having that drive if he wishes to succeed at the next level. The NLL is a box lacrosse league, which is very different from the field lacrosse that Cole and the Hawks play. According to Wray, Cole might need some time to acclimate to the difference.

“I think learning the indoor game is not gonna be easy for Zach,” Wray said. “It is a very different game.”

Wray said he hopes the Desert Dogs will be patient with Cole and work through the transition with him, because he thinks that Cole can be an elite face-off specialist in the NLL if he is given time.

“He is a talented enough athlete and a tough enough competitor that it will just take him a little bit of time to learn some of the nuances of the indoor game,” Wray said. 

“Once he figures it out, he’s going to be a terrific player for that franchise.”

According to Cole, he has some box lacrosse experience, but not at a competitive level. He said he is looking forward to the adjustment and hopes to have an extended career in the NLL after doing so.

“I think the change is going to be really interesting,” Cole said. “I think it fits into my kind of playing style.”

Cole said that the difference in the games means that he will have to continue to have the same work ethic he has always had in order to find new ways to improve as he adjusts to box lacrosse.

“At that level, everyone is skilled athletically, with their stick work and different things like that,” Cole said. “I just need to find my niche and be able to work hard at the little things that I’ll be able to improve on.”

According to Wray, Cole embodies the three core values that the team holds: selflessness, engagement and discipline. Wray said Cole is like a robot at practice, and his example of those values rubs off on the rest of the team.

“I think through living those values himself, he sets the right tone for the rest of the guys in the program,” Wray said. “He has really developed into a great role model and a vocal leader over the last few years.”

Cole will not join the Desert Dogs until the 2024 season. He will play out his final season of eligibility for the Hawks before trying his hand in Sin City. According to Cole, he has enjoyed being a part of many good seasons at St. Joe’s and is looking forward to continuing to put the program on the map.

“Every person from St. Joe’s who plays at the pro level has a good reputation there,” Cole said. “I think it’s an honor to be playing at St. Joe’s and represent them on a higher level.”

This article was first published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 4, 2022 as part of the Inquirer’s college correspondent program

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