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From Puslinch to the pros: friends drafted into National Lacrosse League

Jake Stevens and Reed Kurtz were both picked by the Riptide in Saturday's National Lacrosse League draft
Jake Stevens, stands with his parents Dennis and Shireen after getting picked by the New York Riptide. Reed Kurtz, right, was taken by the Riptide in the second round.

There's no way Jake Stevens and Reed Kurtz thought it was possible.

The childhood neighbours and friends from Puslinch never thought they'd be taken by the same team, let alone in the same year.

But that's exactly what happened at the National Lacrosse League Draft on Saturday.

The New York Riptide took Stevens with one of its two first-round picks (10th overall), and followed it up in the second round, selecting Kurtz at 33rd overall.

"To get drafted alone was cool enough, and then to go to the same team as somebody (who) you're super close with the family, it's a really cool experience," Kurtz said.

"And to be in the same place as somebody that you already know makes it an easier transition."

"We spent a lot of times in a lot of different places together through (the) years, so definitely very cool," added Stevens.

The two of them are two years apart.

Stevens, 24, played his last four years with Princeton University, but is transferring to Syracuse for his grad year.

He had 24 goals for the Princeton Tigers in 2023, and played his summer with Major Series Lacrosse's (MSL) Brooklin Lacrosse Club.

However, COVID protocols were a bit different with Ivy League schools, including the cancellation of the 2021 season. Stevens ended up becoming part of the 2023 NLL draft class.

Kurtz, 22, is going into his fifth year with the University of Delaware, and looking to finish his NCAA career on a high note.

The two didn't really play together competitively until their late teens, when they both suited up for the Kitchener-Waterloo Braves in Junior A. But they'd always spend time together, along with their brothers Tye Kurtz and Joel Stevens.

Tye – a first-round pick to Albany in 2022 and going into his first NLL season – is one of Jake's best friends.

Joel, who is playing NCAA Division 1 lacrosse with Hobart College, is one of Reed's best friends.

"We would always go around to their house, shoot around and play lacrosse in the backyard," Reed said.

Fast forward to Saturday. Jake and Reed sat together among a group of family and friends at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre waiting to hear their name called.

Individually, it was a trek for both of them.

Reed, already down at Delaware, drove eight-and-a-half hours with collegiate teammate and fellow 2023 second rounder Mike Robinson on Friday, before driving right back Sunday.

"We got invited, and then we were like 'we gotta go,'" Kurtz said, adding the trip was worth it.

"It was such a cool experience, to go up there and walk across the stage, put the jersey on, especially with my parents there. It was pretty nice."

Jake finished practice at Syracuse at noon Friday, drove to Guelph to stay overnight, and drove to Oakville for the big day.

"There was some nerves associated," he said, alluding to the chatter of him being among the top available players.

"You see all the stuff on social media, and where everyone thinks you're going and it's truly just noise. Nobody had any idea what was going to happen."

He had talked with Halifax, who originally owned the 10th pick, and had a feeling he'd go there.

Then the pick was sent to New York, and Jake heard his name.

"It's very cool, a childhood dream come true, hard not to be excited," he said.

"More specifically with New York, I went to school with Princeton so I spent a lot of time in the city, I have a lot of friends on Long Island. My summer coach with Brooklin is one of their coaches. Lots of connections, and really excited."

Reed, who played for Brampton (MSL) this summer, is also excited about the prospect of playing for New York, who are looking to improve on a 5-13 season.

Both will head to Riptide training camp in 2024. Plenty of time for the families to plan trips from Puslinch to the Nassau Coliseum.

"Our parents were both confident they can come to games together, plan trips together, stuff like that," Reed said.

"Me and Jake were just talking like 'what are the chances of this.' Who would have ever thought we would be going to the same place, and in the same draft."

Course, the two aren't looking that far ahead. They not only have another NCAA year to get through, but as Reed put it, they both still have to make the roster in 2024.

"At the end of the day, getting drafted is pretty much just an invite to training camp," he said.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Originally from Timmins, ON, Mark is a longtime journalist and broadcaster, who has worked in several Ontario markets.
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