November 23, 2012 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Edmonton Rush
Edmonton, AB-- Drafted 33rd overall in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, Simon Giourmetakis, one of two Alberta products selected by the Rush, is a true hometown hero. Playing four of his five years of Jr. A with the Edmonton Eclipse, as team captain, Giourmetakis can be found among the top point-getters in Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Association history, with 226 points in 68 games - a 3.32 point-per-game average. But offense is not all that Giourmetakis does. In fact, you are more likely to find him in his own zone, digging for loose balls and leading the transition game. "Simon is a kid willing to do the dirty work, but he also has some scoring ability," coach Derek Keenan notes. "I do not mind doing the dirty work, but I also enjoy putting the ball in the net, so I try to make the best of my opportunities," Giourmetakis responds.
After his stint with the Eclipse, Giourmetakis moved on to the Coquitlam Adanacs Jr. A club in 2010, joining the soon-to-be Minto Cup Champions, alongside Rush draftee Mark Matthews. "The caliber of play is a little better out in B.C. and Ontario, and since it was my last season, I really wanted to experience what it would be like to play in one of these leagues," says Giourmetakis.
Shortly before, in 2009, Giourmetakis made the jump to the NCAA's Canisius College Golden Griffins (located in Buffalo, New York), where his previous two seasons of junior gave him an age and skill advantage over many of his fellow competitors. With somewhat below-average totals in his freshman and sophomore years, he exploded in 2011 with 22 goals and 12 assists in 12 games, following up that stellar performance with 34 goals and 13 assists in 14 games in 2012. In both his junior and senior years at college, Giourmetakis led his team in points, which was topped off with a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championship in his final college season. Due to this success, he became only the fourth player in Griffins history to be awarded first-team All-MAAC honours twice, since 1989, when Canisius joined the ten-team conference - and Giourmetakis was born.
Despite his performance in field lacrosse at the college level, Giourmetakis makes it clear that his preference is box lacrosse: "I like how much faster the box game is; it means you have to think fast and make quick plays. In field, there are some times where it can get really boring, depending on what position you are playing. In this sense, I like the faster pace of the box game and making those quick decisions."
Since finishing junior, Giourmetakis has also been a member of the Maple Ridge Burrards (Sr. A), where he played with Rush draftee Mitch Banister this past season. "I played against him [Banister] for four years, when I played for the Eclipse, and he was on the [Calgary] Raiders. We always had our differences on the floor, but when we played together in Maple Ridge, there was no bad blood between us. I would like to think that we are pretty good friends now, and I can't wait to see him at camp," Giourmetakis recalls. On making the transition to Sr. A, he adds, "The most difficult part was the huge size difference. I found that all the guys playing Sr. A are bigger and stronger, so you really have to put in the work to be able to play with these guys. The WLA has many players who are already on NLL teams, and it gave me experience playing against that caliber of players."
Now graduated from college, Giourmetakis looks forward to playing for his long-time-favourite NLL team and putting his Management major to good use. "I am going to try and get a job somewhere in Edmonton and get in on the ground level, learn the inner workings of the company, and then try to work my way up the ladder. Hopefully I will be able to get my MBA sometime soon, because I think that would be a big help in finding that one right job. In the meantime, I have been going to school in the U.S., so a steady income would suit me just fine at this moment.
"I am born and raised in Edmonton, and it will always be my home, so getting to play in front of my family and friends will mean a lot to me. ... Growing up and playing in Edmonton, I definitely thought that I might someday be in a Rush jersey."
Local, elite-level talent is always a team asset and a fan attraction, so here's to our hometown hero, Simon, and continued success for him in lacrosse and life!
Banister Heading North
The Edmonton-Calgary sports rivalry is as cold and brutal as most any Alberta winter. In professional lacrosse, the rivalry is still quite young, but Rush fans will surely agree it is just as intense as the more-established hockey and football matchups. With any vigorous rivalry, bumps and bruises are often the result; thankfully, in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft, the Rush selected Mitch Banister 46th overall - one of Calgary's own and a definite bruiser. Furthermore, he is the son of former Calgary Roughnecks owner Brad Banister. Something about Banister's presence in Edmonton seems, well, not right. (Just do not look him in the eye and say that.)
Standing at a modest 6-0 and weighing in at 175 pounds, Banister uses his strength, rather than his size, to intimidate opponents. Coach Derek Keenan comments, "He is the classic case of a guy you hate to play against but love to have on your team," which is probably the main motivation for swiping Banister, rather than letting our adversary to the south claim him. Speaking to Banister's abilities, Keenan adds, "He's tenacious and feisty and also a good athlete capable of playing an up-tempo style of defense."
Spending all five years of his junior career with the Calgary Raiders in the Rocky Mountain Lacrosse League (Jr. A), in 78 games from 2007 to 2011, Banister racked up 188 penalty minutes, placing him third all-time in that category for the league, while maintaining a 0.63 point-per-game average - certainly not a bad achievement for a player of his type. "A lot of those minutes were for doing something I took pride in - sticking up for my teammates - which can sometimes put you in some situations that many shy away from, but I took it upon myself to always put the team first," Banister explains.
Despite winning back-to-back Alberta Jr. A championships with the Raiders, Banister is a veteran of two unsuccessful Minto Cup finals in 2010 and 2011. Since then, he has learned to roll with the punches, when it comes to adversity. "The hardest part was coming so close to reaching something that I dedicated countless hours of my whole summer toward, as well as ending my junior career with a loss. What I was able to take away from it was the knowledge of how to play in big-game situations, as well as what I needed to achieve to take my game to the next level."
In 2012, Banister moved on to the Maple Ridge Burrards (Sr. A), where he played with former RMLL foe and Edmonton native Simon Giourmetakis, who is also a Rush draft pick. "It was awesome playing alongside Simon, as he is a great player that I had played against almost my whole junior career. Coming from Alberta made it easier to connect with him, as we were both leaving friends and family back home in order to play in the WLA." Banister's experience in Maple Ridge has taught him a few things: "In junior, there aren't as many players that can hurt you on a power play, if you take an ill-advised penalty. At the senior level, the players have a much higher knowledge of the game, which ultimately makes it more challenging."
Banister entered the NCAA in 2011 with La Roche College (in Pittsburgh), but he has since moved on to play with the University of Tampa, where he is currently majoring in Business. "Tampa offered me more of a challenge lacrosse-wise, which made the move easier, as it's always tough leaving somewhere that you have become accustomed to."
And becoming accustomed, especially to elite lacrosse, is something Banister thinks is the future for Albertans: "I definitely think having Alberta-born players playing in the province is a huge step in promoting the game. It gives younger players the opportunity to realize what they are capable of, and what they can accomplish in order to make it to the professional level, even if they are not from one of the lacrosse hotbeds. Playing locally allows us to reach out to the community in ways that out-of-province players are not able to do as easily."
Now that he has officially defected to the north, after growing up in the south, Banister is a player who can be appreciated by Rush fans and all Albertans alike, which is probably a good thing - or do you wanna drop the gloves?
The NLL 2012 Western Division Champs will open the 2013 NLL season training camp this Saturday, November 24 at Six Nations, Ontario.
Returning players hold a memory of a successful playoff season that ended with bitter sweet results of losing the Champions Cup to the Rochester Knighthawks. The 2012 draftee players will enter training camp fulfilling dreams of attending their first professional lacrosse camp and earning a roster spot.