If you were a high school lacrosse player with a choice of scholarship offers from virtually every program at the Division I level, which school would you choose?
For John Jay (N.Y.) junior attackman Mike Daniello, it was a tough call.
But Daniello, the No. 9-ranked junior in the nation by Inside Lacrosse, decided to accept a scholarship offer from the the University of North Carolina. He made a verbal commitment to attend UNC on Sept. 2.
Daniello, a left-handed attackman, had narrowed his choices to UNC, Johns Hopkins and Syracuse.
"It was probably the hardest decision of my life," he said. "I loved all three schools."
Daniello, who led John Jay in scoring this past season with 32 goals and 60 points, said the fact that both UNC and Hopkins have medical schools gave them a bit of an edge over Syracuse, where his brother, Chris, is a senior attackman on the two-time defending national champions.
"I always thought of Syracuse with the rich tradition," the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Daniello said. "But North Carolina is a place where I knew if I didn’t have lacrosse, I’d be happy. There’s a comfort level at UNC."
Daniello said the coaches he called to inform them about his decision — Syracuse assistant Lelan Rogers and Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala — were understanding of his decision.
"They were both so respectful," Daniello said. "Even though it hurt them, they were both accepting of my decision, and now I respect them even more."
Though North Carolina has yet to achieve the kind of success on the field that Syracuse and Hopkins have, Daniello said he thinks the Tar Heels are ready to make a quantum leap to the next level under the leadership of Joe Breschi, who just completed his first year with the Tar Heels after coming over from Ohio State.
UNC has already landed commitments from the nation’s No. 1-ranked senior, West Islip’s Nicky Galasso; No. 20-ranked senior, Boys Latin’s Pat Foster; No. 4-ranked junior, Deerfield Academy’s Jimmy Bitter; and No. 13-ranked junior, Joe Sankey of Penn Charter, Pa.
The fact they are also attackmen was a plus — not minus — according to Daniello. Bitter (5-8, 150) and Sankey (5-7, 155) both have outstanding stick skills and shooting ability. Galasso and Daniello are both strong and athletic. Foster may be the top player in the Baltimore area.
"They said they see me as the playmaker," Daniello said. "With me or Galasso on the left and to have Bitter on the right; to me, that attack sounds so dangerous. It could be unstoppable. Each one of us is a total threat."
In addition to Galasso, North Carolina has also received commitments from three other Top 20 seniors: midfielders Mark McNeil (St. Mary’s/Annapolis, Md.), Will Campbell (Kilbourne/Worthington, Ohio) and Duncan Hines (Gulma, Md.).
Daniello’s unofficial visit to North Carolina — taken the weekend of Sept. 4 — also made a huge impact.
"What I really love about UNC is the overall school spirit," he said. "Walking around campus, everyone is wearing that Carolina blue with a big smile on their face. They love where they are."
Joe Lombardi, who has been a fixture on the lacrosse scene during the sport’s rapid growth in the New York metropolitan area, produces editorial and video content for LaxLessons.com. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.