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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Whitlow prepping for NLL draft following recovery from torn ACL

Photo by Alicia Mojica
Kyle Whitlow suffered a practice injury prior to the Golden Eagles’ game against Robert Morris.

Kyle Whitlow’s Marquette career didn’t end the way he thought it would. He hopes the start of his professional career goes more according to plan.

On Monday in Oakville, Ontario, Whitlow will become the third former Golden Eagle drafted into the National Lacrosse League, the premier indoor lacrosse league, following Tyler Melnyk and Andrew Smistad from 2014. Since Smistad didn’t make a roster, Whitlow is trying to join Melnyk as the only Marquette players to make an NLL roster. It will be a challenge, especially after the year he’s gone through.

Whitlow is nearly six months out from one of the most severe injuries the lacrosse team has seen. He tore his ACL and lateral meniscus in a March practice before Marquette’s game against Robert Morris.

“Obviously he’s a great player, but the type of kid he was — a leader — the impact he had on the program is second to none,” teammate Conor Gately said after the Robert Morris game.

He was sidelined the rest of the season, forced to watch the Golden Eagles march to the most successful season in program history.

“For about two months I was laid up on the couch and wasn’t able to do anything,” Whitlow said.

Whitlow missed out on big moments for the program, including some where Marquette fell just short. He was forced to speculate how his presence on the field would have affected Marquette’s overtime loss to Notre Dame, or the team’s one-goal NCAA Tournament loss to North Carolina, the eventual champion.

“All these things weigh on you,” Whitlow said. “Especially this season when we were in so many (games) … it hurt even more. I just tried to stay positive and do what I can still do for the team, try and be a vocal leader.”

He spent plenty of time with Marquette’s medical staff, going through physical therapy throughout the season and a majority of the summer. He slowly worked his way back to the point where he can exercise normally. Although he said he’s not back to 100 percent, he has the cutting ability that can be difficult to regain after a knee injury.

Luckily for Whitlow, his stock is still relatively high, based on a strong rookie season in Major Series Lacrosse last summer, one of the two premier summer box lacrosse leagues in Canada. A majority of the players in the league also play in the NLL in the winter. He scored 15 goals and 21 assists in his first season with the Brooklin Redmen, finishing third on the team in points.

That year will help him, but Whitlow’s injury is now a red flag in itself and also halted him from raising his draft stock. He wasn’t able to play a second season in the MSL this summer and won’t be participating in this weekend’s combine.

IL Indoor has Whitlow going 20th overall to the Georgia Swarm in the first mock draft, but IL writer Stephen Stamp has him a bit lower now. He projects him as a third or fourth round pick.

“I thought he had a pretty good rookie season in the MSL,” Stamp said. “For Kyle and guys like him who are talented, they are used to having the ball or are used to being one of the main guys. Being required to be a complementary guy is actually pretty good for him. When any player goes into the NLL now, they are going to be a complementary player.”

With the wealth of talent in last year’s draft and the league still at nine teams, it’s an incredibly difficult year for rookies to make rosters. Getting a foot in the door could be huge for players outside the top two rounds, since NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz has stated the league hopes to expand by two or three teams next year.

“For some guys, it’s just going to mean some patience until the league expands,” Stamp said. “Teams are waiting for that event as well. … They are keeping an eye on them.”

For now, it’s a waiting game to see if Whitlow will even have a chance to take weekends off from his day job as a butter tart chef to play lacrosse across the continent. The draft is Monday 6 p.m. CDT at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, and he’ll need to fight for a job at training camp in the early winter.

“Teams are looking at me and they see me coming off a knee injury, I’m well aware of that. … At the end of the day I understand what teams might see and they are taking a bit of a gamble on a big injury like this, but I’m not worried about it at the end of the day.”

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