January 13, 2011

Palasek Reports to Syracuse, Refutes Rumors of Fallout at Hopkins

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Syracuse may choose to redshirt Hopkins transfer Tom Palasek this year given its surplus of talent at the attack position.

If you believe lacrosse forums, then you had Tom Palasek pegged as a malcontent who wanted to stick it to Johns Hopkins so bad, he bolted to the only place where more NCAA championship banners hang than Homewood.

He was to Dave Pietramala what Reggie Jackson was to Billy Martin. Naturally, he had to leave lacrosse's version of the Yankees for the Red Sox, right?

Palasek even heard an account of the story in which he and younger brother Matt walked out on the team after Pietramala issued a challenge following an NCAA tournament first-round loss to Duke that clinched the Blue Jays' first losing season since 1971.

"That's not true, none of it," Palasek said. "Rumors fly."

It's been a whirlwind week for Palasek, whose ascent as a sophomore in 2010 was followed by the surprising announcement that he and younger brother Matt Palasek were granted releases from Hopkins to pursue transfer options. Matt landed at UMass. Tom spent the fall catching up on college credits at Suffolk (N.Y.) Community College while living at home, thankful that his laptop broke over the summer.

Palasek arrived Monday at Syracuse. He reported Thursday for lacrosse media day and the start of preseason, where he hoped to put the scuttlebutt to bed.

"Coach [Pietramala] would never put anyone on the spot like that. Me and my brother, we took it upon ourselves to make that decision. No one forced us into it," he said. "You won't ever catch me saying a bad thing about that place. I learned a lot there about being in a Division I program that will help me the next two years. To be honest, it was as simple as not the right fit. I was ready to move on and do other things with my lacrosse career and my academic career."

Palasek, who said he wants to be a teacher and enroll in Syracuse's education school, might not play right away. Orange head coach John Desko told The Post-Standard earlier this week he could choose to redshirt the 5-foot-11, 175-pound attackman, who played in 14 games (starting five) and totaled 20 points for the Blue Jays last year.

"We'll see," Desko said. "I honestly don't know until he gets here and we evaluate him. He's arriving midyear with no knowledge of the offense or defense, and we have our first scrimmage in a few weeks. We have our lines set coming out of fall ball. He will really have to come in and make an impact. There has been talk of a redshirt year so he can learn the system. I guess it remains to be seen."

A self-proclaimed opportunist, Palasek said he would like to compete immediately. But a crowded Syracuse attack that includes returning starter Stephen Keogh (31g, 5a), preseason All-American JoJo Marasco, an experienced swingman in Tim Desko and promising freshman Billy Ward could dictate otherwise.

"I plan on approaching it like I was going to play," Palasek said. "If it comes down to where coaches feel it's better off to save the year and take the opportunity to have two years after this, then I'm going to listen to them. They know best."

Said Marasco: "Palasek is an unbelievable player. It's great to have him on the team. We've also got great freshmen pushing everyone. It's exciting to have that competition."

Palasek, whose younger brother Ryan, a rising high school junior at Rocky Point (N.Y.), has committed to play lacrosse at Syracuse, had arguably his best game in 2010 against the Orange. His two-goal, one-assist performance jumpstarted a Johns Hopkins comeback that ultimately fizzled in a 10-7 loss.

"I like to think of myself as a player that could fit in most systems," Palasek said, "but definitely here at Syracuse, it fits my style."

No offense to Hopkins.

JoJo is jersey-sure

Syracuse's new No. 22 said Thursday he's up to the expectations that come with the jersey number once donned by Gary Gait and the Powell brothers.

"It's a special honor. I talked to a few folks about wearing it as a freshman, but then Cody Jamieson asked for it," said JoJo Marasco, a sophomore attackman who wore No. 1 last year. "Then I talked to the coaches after Army and told them I wanted and would be honored to wear it. Everybody knows about the number 22."

Marasco had nine goals and eight assists in 10 games before missing the last five games -- including the Orange's surprising NCAA tournament first-round loss to Army -- with a lower leg injury. He's healthy now and expected to start on the Syracuse attack with a 22-shaped target on his back.

"I have good confidence coming in here and getting a chance to wear it," Marasco said. "If you don't want to wear it and they give it to you, maybe it's not that important. But I thought I could take the media, take the hype and show everyone on my team out there that I can wear it well."

The Orange will host Le Moyne, Hofstra, Maryland and Canisius in preseason scrimmages starting Feb. 5.

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