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The Next Step

11/20/2013, 10:45am CST
By Brent Hollerud

No. 2 Pick Jason Noble stands at the forefront of the next generation of Swarm Defensemen

With their four first-round picks in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft, the Minnesota Swarm are experiencing an influx of young blood on their roster heading into training camp.  However, in this case youth did not come at the expense of skill, as after taking the best available offensive player with their first selection, the Swarm followed suit by taking the consensus best defensive player of the 2013 draft class in Jason Noble with the second overall pick.

Noble, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound defender from Orangeville, Ontario caught the attention of the Swarm coaching staff, along with the rest of the league, by being one of the most reliable defensemen in the NCAA during a prolific career at Cornell University.  One of six rookie defensemen coming into training camp, Noble had coach Joe Sullivan singing his praises before even getting a chance to don a Swarm sweater. 

“There was no doubt at all that Jason was the best defensive player available in the draft,” Sullivan says. “He is always in the right position and he is very tough to beat.  Jason is not the biggest guy out there but he is able to stand up guys who are 20 to 30 pounds heavier than him.”

The left-hander built his draft stock in large part to a college career with the Big Red that saw him capture a slew of individual awards and honors.  Noble was named a First-Team USILA All-American in 2013, after being named to the Second-Team the year prior.  A two-time All-Ivy Leaguer in 2012 and 2013, Noble racked up 216 ground balls in 65 career contests, which places him 10th all-time in Cornell history.

Noble’s pension for excellence is not limited to the field, as the applied economics and management major was also named a First-Team finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award, given to senior athletes who show outstanding work in the classroom and the community while thriving on the playing field.

Despite all of the individual recognition, Noble refused to take credit for his college success.  “The awards come from the team doing so well,” Noble says. “The coaches do a great job of pushing us to become the best we can be, both on and off the field.”

With his impressive resume, Noble seems poised to lead the next generation of Swarm players, along with his fellow first-round picks forward Logan Schuss (first overall), transition player Cam Flint (fourth overall) and forward Scott Jones (seventh overall).  Noble understands that the expectations for the class of 2013 go beyond simply taking up roster spots; they will be counted upon to take on a much larger role in the upcoming years. “It’s a great opportunity for myself and everyone in our draft class,” he states. “All of us have the capability to make an impact on the team this season.”

While Sullivan admits that he hardly ever plans to enter a season with a drastically younger team than the year before, he knows that having a group of fledgling players ready to step in and play is never a bad thing. “You always have to have a sort of backfill set up,” Sullivan explains. “So when someone retires or decides to move on we can just reload, where other teams might have to scramble to fill their roster.”

Nowhere on the floor is Minnesota’s youth movement more apparent than on the back end.  Six of the 11 defensemen on the roster are heading into their first NLL training camp, and the rest are made up of mostly second or third year players.  Noble recognizes that the pressure is on the new defensive additions to play like seasoned veterans by the time opening night rolls around. “We don’t really have that much time to adapt, we have to learn our game and our systems much faster in order to be ready to play opening night,” Noble says.

Despite his rookie status, Noble is determined to make his presence known on the field this season. “I have high expectations for myself, I will not be satisfied with just making the roster and being a passenger on this team,” Noble states. 

Luckily for Noble and his fellow greenhorn defensemen, there is an incredible support system in place to help ease their transition into the pro ranks. This support system not only includes Sullivan and the coaching staff, but a core group of veterans in the locker room, such as team captain Andrew Suitor, assistant captain Jeff Gilbert, and transition player Tyler Hass.  “Our veterans are all proven leaders and proven winners,” Sullivan says. “As a coach you couldn’t ask for much more than for those guys to help guide your younger players.”

Noble emphasizes how important it will be for himself and the rest of Minnesota’s rookie contingent to learn from the veterans in the locker room.  “Everyone is definitely going to be all-ears whenever they are talking, making sure we take in all they have to say,” he explains.

Providing Noble with additional tutelage is a fellow defenseman with a Big Red connection and ties to the Swarm.  Mitch Belisle graduated from Cornell in 2007, and has six years of NLL experience, the last two of which were with Minnesota. “Mitch is a great guy and a great mentor,” Noble said of his teammate. “He has the work ethic and determination that everyone wants to see in themselves.” 

Sullivan seconds the importance of having a veteran presence on the roster, not just for their performance but also for their role in the development of the newer players.  “It’s like having another coach on the floor, on the bench, in the bus or on the plane,” Sullivan says. “With our schedule we don’t get a lot of time together as a group, so having guys who have been with us and know our systems and expectations helps a lot.”

That being said, Noble has already developed a pedigree for success in box lacrosse and experience playing against the world’s best players.  He was part of a trio of Minto Cup champion teams with the Orangeville Northmen (Jr. A) in 2008, 2009 and 2012, and recently logged time this summer with both the Kitchener-Waterloo Kodiaks in the MSL and the Hamilton Nationals in the MLL, playing with and against many of the best players in lacrosse. 

Armed with experience from the junior, college and summer league ranks and the confidence of himself and his coaching staff, Noble is poised to assume his spot at the vanguard of the Minnesota’s youth movement and turn some heads at The Hive this season. “Getting a chance to play against some of the “big boys” [at Kitchener and Hamilton] before making the jump to the NLL was a great experience and something I am going to carry forward.” 

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