October 10, 2012

Galasso: 'Want to See Where I Can Make Impact'

Former top recruit talks about decision to leave UNC, early recruiting, injuries

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Nicky Galasso said he wants to play somewhere closer to his Long Island home and at a program where he "can be the player that I was," he told Lacrosse Magazine on Tuesday.
© Peyton Williams

updated 10.10.2012 at 3.49 p.m.

It was a long time ago — six-plus years, in fact — when a then-eighth-grade Nicky Galasso burst onto the national recruiting scene. Now he'll go through it all again.

Galasso, who asked for and was granted a release from his scholarship at North Carolina on Monday night, told LaxMagazine.com on Tuesday he's keeping his transfer options open, although he intends to land at a school this spring that provides him two things: 1) the ability for his father and four older brothers to see him play more often, and 2) a team where he can have an instant impact.

"I felt that I could make an impact somewhere else, and that I would want to attend another school," Galasso said to start a conversation that covered his decision-making process, thoughts on his North Carolina career and comments on the early recruiting cycle that landed him in Chapel Hill.

"I have to thank North Carolina for the opportunity to attend such a prestigious school. It's one of those high-end programs that you dream of going to, but I just want to experience a college closer to home so my family can get down to more events and watch me perform. Hopefully the next place I attend, I get the opportunity to step on the field and make an impact right away."

Galasso and his father met with North Carolina coach Joe Breschi on Monday night in North Carolina to finalize the release. It allows Galasso to transfer to another program for the spring without having to sit out a year, unless he opts to join current ACC programs Duke, Maryland or Virginia. Also, per the agreement, if Galasso were to transfer to a school on North Carolina's spring 2013 schedule, he would not be able to play this year but would not lose a year of eligibility. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

Galasso said he has a list of potential landing spots in mind but didn't want to delve into specifics.

"I have to keep my options open and see what people have to offer, see where I can make an impact, and see where I'll fit in the most," he said.

But Galasso did offer an opinion on Hofstra, a program already speculated by some as Galasso's destination since the school is located 20 minutes from his hometown of West Islip, N.Y., on Long Island.

Galasso Talking With Syracuse, But Not 'Top Pick'

While he wants to keep his options open, at least one school is among Galasso's list of transfer options: Syracuse. An Orange team spokesman confirmed to LaxMagazine.com that the school is talking to Galasso about transferring there and playing lacrosse.

Asked Wednesday if Syracuse is his top choice, Galasso told LaxMagazine.com: "I have no top pick. I'm still just exploring my options and looking for the best fit." — C.M.

"Hofstra is a great program, but I think it might be too close to home," he said. "I'm thinking maybe elsewhere, try to get a little bit away and still have that college experience."

Galasso was widely considered the top recruit in his class throughout his high school career at West Islip, and before his junior season committed to North Carolina. Two years later, he was named ACC Freshman of the Year and a third-team All-American after a stellar rookie season in 2011. But after breaking his foot last November, he never returned to full strength in 2012 and fell into a limited role as a reserve and man-up specialist running through the box.

Last year, junior Marcus Holman and freshmen Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey played the starting roles on the attack unit. All three of those players return to the Carolina lineup this season.

Galasso said having limited playing time "played a part" in his decision to leave.

"I just wanted to perform at the highest level that I can," he said. "My freshman year I had a chance to do that, and then unfortunately I got hurt my sophomore year. Coming back, I probably should have redshirted. This year, I came back in great shape and it just wasn't the best fit for me after going through the fall. I just decided I wanted to find a home that would best suit me."

Galasso indicated he plans to complete the fall semester academically at North Carolina before transferring for the spring.

Related Story
* Galasso Granted Release from North Carolina

"Obviously, it's disappointing to have a young man like Nicky leave our program," Breschi said in a press release. "We appreciate all that he has brought to Carolina lacrosse over the past two years and we wish him the best of luck both academically and athletically at his new school. Nicky leaves here in great academic standing and we're proud of the way he achieved in the classroom at UNC.

LaxMagazine.com's Matt Forman spoke with Breschi for a separate story on Sept. 24, and at that time, there were no indications of Galasso's potential transfer.

"He's just a terrific player," Breschi said. "There's no two ways about that. He's got tremendous talent, you saw it his freshman year. He led our team in scoring and did a great job. So we're hoping he has a lot of that, coming back at 100 percent, and is as effective as he was freshman year."

In that conversation, Breschi said Galasso is "definitely an attackman, there's no doubt about that," regarding his plans for Galasso's role in 2013.

Galasso was in attendance but didn't play Sunday in a pair of North Carolina scrimmages Sunday at the Capital Lacrosse Invitational in Bethesda, Md., because of an apparent injury. His absence raised questions.

Of course, observers were asking about Galasso because the national spotlight has shone on him since eighth grade. That year, he was called up to West Islip's varsity team for the county and state playoffs and played in the final minutes of the 2006 state championship game as the Lions beat West Genesee, to win their first state title in school history.

When his high school career was all said and done, Galasso finished as Long Island's all-time career scoring leader with an even 500 points, and led West Islip to four state titles in five seasons.

After his final game for West Islip — a 13-5 win over Fairport for the state title — Galasso tearfully embraced his father in the front row of the bleachers at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium. Galasso's mother, Cindy, passed away from cancer in 2004 when Galasso was 12 years old. He's worn her initials "CG" in black marker in his leg throughout his playing career.

It's a large reason why Galasso is extremely close with his immediate family, and North Carolina is a 10-hour drive from Long Island.

This recruiting process is so young now that people are making decisions at such a young age that you don't know what to expect. It's so much thrown at you at such a young age that you don't know what you really want.

— Nicky Galasso, who is pursuing transfer options after being granted a release from North Carolina

"My family is everything I got. I talked about it with my dad for a while," Galasso said Tuesday. "It was a hard decision. I talked to my brothers. We have such as close family that I decided that being close to them, being able to see them, and have them be there, is the one thing that was on my mind. It's going to be good to possibly be closer to home."

When Galasso originally committed to North Carolina, there were a few West Islip players on the roster and others on the way from the national power. This season, Galasso was the only player from his hometown on the team, but he said that wasn't an issue.

"I was comfortable at [North Carolina] right away. I had best friends," he said. "I'll always have these guys to talk to and hang out with."

What he wasn't comfortable with: the accelerated recruiting cycle that landed him at North Carolina. As the top recruit in the nation, Galasso felt pressure to commit verbally before his junior season. Now, just a few years later, rising sophomores are in the same position, and some are committing.

Galasso had pointed comments on the recruiting process.

"I committed to North Carolina pretty quickly, and I'm happy that I did because I had a great freshman year, and I loved the guys that got to meet and become brothers with," he prefaced.

"But I kind of wish that I explored my options more instead of rushing into something. This recruiting process is so young now that people are making decisions at such a young age that you don't know what to expect. The recruiting process is a lot on someone who is 14, 15, 16 years old. It's so nerve-wracking. It's so much thrown at you at such a young age that you don't know what you really want.

"Right now, like I was telling some of my roommates, I made a hard decision. I'm going to miss the guys on the team, but I kind of get to experience the whole recruiting process again, and get to see what coaches are interested in me, and what coaches still have faith in me that I can be the player that I was, that I can make an impact on their program."

And that likely will happen. Galasso said his high school coach, Scott Craig, has texted him to say schools were already contacting him about their interest.

The Recruitment — Part II — begins.

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