Lacrosse: Q&A with Former NJ Stars Chris Hubler, Trevor Baptiste at the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Final Four
By Mark Brown - Shore Sports Network contributor
A pair of former New Jersey lacrosse stars, Rumson-Fair Haven grad Chris Hubler and Morristown-Beard grad Trevor Baptiste, got to experience the excitement of the highest level of college lacrosse earlier this past weekend at the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championships in Baltimore.
Hubler is a freshman on the Johns Hopkins team that fell to Maryland in the semifinals, while Baptiste, one of the top face-off specialists in the country as a freshman, became a national champion as part of the University of Denver team that beat Maryland on Monday to win it all.
Shore Sports Network's Mark Brown caught up with both athletes over the weekend.
SSN: What has it been like transitioning from Rumson to Johns Hopkins? What is your schedule like these day?
CH: It was definitely a big change going from high school to college. The pace is a big change. Every practice seems like a big game, and the intensity level is much different than I have experienced. The first practice in fall ball was at 6 a.m. I remember waking up nervous but excited, and that intensity, even at 6 a.m., was much different. What I learned very quickly is that intensity is the norm for the season.
SSN: The team had a tough start to the season with the passing of teammate Jeremy Huber. How did the team respond and what did you do to cope with his passing?
CH: We all stayed together. We just made sure that no one was ever alone. The freshmen stayed with the upperclassmen at their houses for the first couple of nights. We just made sure we all supported each other.
SSN: You have now been coached by two of the most famous defensemen in lacrosse - Reid Jackson in high school and now Dave Pietramala at Hopkins. Do you see any similarities to their coaching mentality or style?
CH: They are definitely very similar in their philosophy. They both make sure you understand your role, two slides and off-ball movement. They both predicate defensive field awareness and to react to the plays. I have learned a lot from both of them, and realize there is so much more to gain in the years to come with Coach Pietramala.
SSN: What advice would you give to players in the Shore area to prepare for college lacrosse? You have come from RFH, which is one of the top programs in the Shore, to Hopkins, one of the top programs in the country. What would you tell the kids who think they are ready for college lacrosse?
CH: Keep working on your stick skills, no question. Whatever side is weaker, work double time to make it a strength. Work on your strength and, more importantly, your speed. Once you get to the next level, they are going to teach you all of their schemes in order to succeed. Keep hitting the wall and keep shooting. Worry about staying in shape. Everyone at this level came from a great program, and everyone is working just as hard as you are.
SSN: Do you feel like lacrosse is becoming a 24/7, year-round sport?
CH: Yes, you start in the fall and play all year long, but it is still enjoyable. The coaches and trainers do a great job of keeping you focused even when it wears on you and you're getting tired.
SSN: You left a top program as a top player in the Shore to become a freshman on a major Division I program. What has that adjustment been like?
CH: There is no question it is different, but I do whatever I can to help the team. Whether it is scout tea or cheering them on, just doing whatever you can to help the team win.
SSN: Any message for the RFH boys back home during their state playoff run?
CH: Good luck, enjoy the experience, and get it done. (Note: The Bulldogs did just that, winning their first Group I title).
SSN: Did you ever think you wouold walk into Denver and just dominate the face-offs the way you are this year?
TB: No, not at all. There are four other face-off guys on the team and they are really good and talented. I think it's half the reason why I am able to do so well because we all push each other to succeed.
SSN: What's your take on going from New Jersey to Denver? Did it take you awhile to get used to the climate and altitude?
TB: It took me a couple of days to get used to the air change. I miss home at times, but I love it out here in Denver.
SSN: What has legendary head coach Bill Tierney taught you so far with your style of play?
TB: There is no way I could answer that in one question. All the coaches have taught me so much, and Tierney is one of the best coaches ever. He has taught more than just lacrosse.
SSN: What do you like to do to prepare against the guys you are going to face off against?
TB: I watch a little bit of tape. I try not to watch too much to psych myself out. I like to get a feel during the game and go from there.
SSN: What sort of advice would you give the kids in the Shore area to get to this level of play? New Jersey is an area where lacrosse is stronger in some parts of the state than others. What would you tell the kids who want to play Division I lacrosse?
TB: Just keep plugging away and don’t give up. Keep working hard every day. Don’t get discouraged by your other teammates making commitments ahead of you. Don’t sell yourself short - I was originally going to play D3 and then I was recruited late in my senior year for Denver. Going through the process was different for me, but don’t get discouraged. If you are getting recruited, try not to read too much about yourself and make the right choice.
At this point assistant coach and former Princeton goalie Trevor Tierney joined the conversation
SSN: What has it been like coaching Trevor Baptiste this season? Did you see right away that he had the goods to compete and dominate this year like he has?
TT: Trevor has been a pleasure to work with and has become a great leader even as a freshman this season. A face-off guy is always an interesting thing. You never know how they are going to match up in college. Once we saw him play in our season opener we could tell right away we had something special. The guys on the team couldn’t beat him in the face-offs.
SSN: OK, one last question for the both of you. Since I used to live in Denver as well and we are all Jersey guys, have you been to the original Chipotle and what are you ordering?
TB: Oh man, yes I have been there. I go burrito bowl, yes a bowl, chicken and steak.
TT: (laughing) Oh man I go bowl as well - white rice, pinto beans, double barbacoa and some guacamole.