Bryan Cole on NLL Draft Night. (Photo Credit: Graig Abel)
Bryan Cole #55. Photo Credit: Zach Fletcher
Bryan Cole, 23, was drafted by the Georgia Swarm with their first selection (No. 4 overall) in the 2016 NLL Draft. As a transition player, the Swarm are betting his wealth of experience playing field lacrosse for the University of Maryland Terrapins and box lacrosse during the past two summers with the Oakville Rock will help him have a standout rookie season and help the Swarm go further in the playoffs during their sophomore season in Georgia. We recently caught up with Cole to ask him about getting drafted by the Swarm and his expectations for his rookie campaign.
Q: How’s training camp been going so far?
A: Training camp was good. First weekend, kind of didn’t really know what to expect coming into it, but I was really happy with it. It was fast-paced, high tempo; thought I played pretty well. I was trying to get a feel for the new defense and the type of game and how it’s different from the summer league.
Q: The Swarm are holding their three training camp sessions in Oakville, Ontario (Cole is from Oakville). What was it like getting to play back in your hometown with the Oakville Rock the past two seasons?
A: It was awesome. Obviously I was doing my training in Oakville, so it was super convenient for me. I was able to have my grandparents and my parents at the games, so that was their first taste as well as mine of how fast this league is. When I first got up there and I saw the pace of play, I was a little bit stunned, but it was just the first shift. After that, I felt like I was hitting my stride.
Q: When you were with the Maryland Terrapins, you went to four NCAA Final Fours, three NCAA Championship games, team captain your senior year, and started every game your last two years there. How was your experience playing at Maryland?
A: Best five years of my life. It’s really hard to describe it … I learned so many things there just in general, whether it was school or about lacrosse or about life, and along the way was able to make hundreds of new family members. The lacrosse part there, we did pretty well while I was on the team, but I think it goes deeper to the amount of friends I made and people I can call family.
Q: How does your experience playing with Maryland and Oakville help prepare you for the NLL?
A: With Oakville playing in the summer league, it’s pretty high tempo in comparison to field lacrosse which is very methodical, very chess-like, and then you have the summer league lacrosse which is pretty go-go-go and physical lacrosse. You get both sides of the spectrum and the in-between as well. So I feel like I’ve kind of been able to round my game over the last five years, whether it was playing in the field for six or seven months, then playing at home three. I feel like the speed of the indoor game and the mental IQ part of the outdoor game has really helped me combine them.
My first weekend, I feel like I’m picking up the concepts of the defense pretty well and understanding and grasping the rule changes, which are when you go for community box lacrosse or you go and try and understand the field lacrosse rules and all that kind of stuff, it’s pretty hard to understand in the first year. I feel like I’m picking up the rules pretty well in comparison to when I was a freshman at Maryland.
Q: Draft night, you were selected in the first round and were the Swarm’s first selection, No. 4 overall. Walk me through that night, how did it feel getting selected by the Swarm?
A: It was unbelievable. You dream about something like that when you’re a kid. It was so surreal when it happened. I kind of looked down the aisle, my parents were sitting behind me, and I heard them to the right a little ways. I saw them perk up, and I didn’t really clue in that my name was called until I saw them clapping and congratulating me. It was certainly very surreal, but at the same time, super exciting. When I actually heard my name get called and was walking up there, it was kind of a whirlwind of emotions.
Obviously proud of myself for getting to that point, but at the same time, wanting to not be complacent with just getting drafted but actually making an impact in this league and being a player that my teammates can rely on … I’m so happy I got to spend it with my friends and family. I was with a lot of guys I played with growing up that got drafted as well; it was really nice to be with them. But also I have to keep in the back of my head that I want to make an impact in this league, and I want to be a contributor for our team.
Q: How’s it been getting to play with the other rookies on the Swarm?
A: It’s been great. We have a lot of guys like Connor (Sellars), Brayden (Hill), and Leo (Stouros), some guys I’m pretty familiar with over the last few years, who are outstanding players. Connor and Leo, they just understand the defense … You look at Connor in transition, he’s solid. You look at Leo on defense, he won the Defensive Player of the Year for our junior league two years in a row (OLA Jr. A with Six Nations Arrows in Hagersville, Ontario), so that just speaks to his work ethic and how good he is on defense. He’s pretty good at pushing the ball in transition, and both of those guys make good decisions in transition.
… All weekend, I was going back and forth with them, giving each other feedback of what we should do better or what we did well that time around, anything like that. It’s been really nice being with those guys. I actually got to room with Connor, someone I never knew personally. But I got to know him pretty well this weekend. He’s a great guy, very friendly and welcoming guy.
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Q: What about the other veterans like the Thompson Brothers or goalie Mike Poulin who the Swarm signed in the offseason? What’s it like playing with them?
A: Those guys are unbelievable. I got to watch them (the Thompson brothers) while they were in college … You look at how their skill sets translate to box. It’s hard to describe them. They’re just great players who have a very good sense of the game. They’re very unselfish, and offensively they move the ball so fast, it makes them so hard to defend. I was really impressed with Kiel Matisz this weekend who just uses his size so well. He’s just a big, strong guy and plays like he’s 6-foot-7.
Then you have Mike Poulin who, in practice, is lights out. He’s a solid goalie, and he’s someone we can turn to on defense as well and tells us what we need to do, when we need to get out and play the ball or to get back in and help.
You look at Jason Noble, he’s been around for a little while. He’s got such a motor, and he’s so smart and knowledgeable about the game that he’s able to help us younger guys through the whole weekend. He was talking with me, “Training camp can be tough. Listen to the older guys and take the advice you can and soak it all in, and you’ll be better for it at the end.” I’ve had the opportunity to play with him over the last couple of summers in Oakville. I look to him and Alex Crepinsek for advice for professional lacrosse.
Q: What’s it like playing under Ed Comeau?
A: He’s awesome, definitely a coach that I resonate with. I’ve had a lot of very good coaches in my lacrosse past. Ed is one of the best. He knows his stuff, and whether he’s talking about drills or he’s talking about game situations, he’s a guy you can tell in his voice that he knows what he’s talking about … It makes me really comfortable knowing that he has brought us up to speed on the rules and the game and all that kind of stuff. It’s really nice to have that so I can just get out there and do my thing.
Q: Your first preseason game was last Saturday against the Toronto Rock. How did it feel taking the floor?
A: It was really nice. Obviously super nervous and very anxious, but at the same time, super excited. It was something I had dreamed about since I was six when I started playing lacrosse and my dad would take me to games. It was something that I was happy I was able to fulfill this dream, but at the same time, I’m hungry to be a part of the team and be a big contributor. I don’t want to just be someone who gets drafted and goes quietly throughout the league until they’re done. I want to make an impact, and I want my teammates to feel as though I’m bringing a lot to the table.
I think the game against Toronto was really good. I think I was hitting my stride towards the end of the first quarter there, starting to get a feel for the rules and the defense and the pace of play. There were a couple of times in transition where I was able to get up the floor, which it was really nice to get my legs going. In the second quarter, just trying to focus on defense first and stay home then when I got the opportunity to push in transition.
Q: The Swarm lost to the Rock 10-8, with the game remaining tight into the final minutes. What have you guys been working on since then?
A: Sunday we were working on a lot of concept stuff, a lot of defense. We worked a lot on five-on-five and six-on-five game situations, man-up, man-down. Just a lot of things that you are going to see in the game. I’m new to the league, but we noticed there are a lot more penalties now with that third ref being on the floor … Kind of have to try and deal in practice with what you’re going to see in games, and this is kind of our barometer. We’re able to see this is how many penalties we can expect in a game, so this is where we have to work more the next day. I think our coaches adjusted our practice plan more to what we saw the night before, and it’s really good.
Q: The Swarm’s first game of the 2017 season is on January 7 against the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush. How does it feel knowing they’re going to be your first NLL opponent?
A: I’m really excited for it. Obviously one of the best teams in the league with some of the best players in the league. As an athlete, as a competitor, what better way to test your skill set and to test your competitive level than to play against the best? That’s why you want to play in the NLL. That’s why you want to play at the highest level. Try and be the best at the best level. Some really amazing players on Saskatchewan, but we have some amazing players, too, so it’s going to be a good head-to-head matchup there.
Q: What are your expectations for yourself during your rookie year?
A: I want to be able to play the role that my coaches need me to play. If that’s being a stay-at-home defender and trying to shut down my matchup and help with team defense, then that’s how I’ll play, and if they want me to be a guy that pushes in transition and stays on offense and tries to put up numbers on the offensive end, then that’s what I’ll do. I’m not really in the position to be making any demands, where I’ll be playing or how many numbers I’ll be putting up. I’m just excited to be a part of this team and try and be a competitor, put myself in position to make plays and kind of be a role player that the coaches need me to be.
Georgia opens the season at home against the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 7:05 p.m. ET from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. Fans can purchase Single-Game Tickets for all nine home games at www.GeorgiaSwarm.com/SingleGame.
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