June 2, 2011

Embattled Brattons Take Act on LXM Pro Tour

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com

Shamel Bratton wants "to get back in good standing with the lacrosse community," Boston Cannons coach Bill Daye said. He and brother Rhamel Bratton have opted out of the MLL this summer to play on the LXM Pro Tour.

© Greg Wall

With the news official that twin brothers and former Virginia All-American midfielders Shamel and Rhamel Bratton will join the LXM Pro Tour, the Major League Lacrosse coaches who drafted them preseason — coaches who will be without their services this summer — offered their thoughts on the situation Wednesday. Neither seemed pleased.

Boston Cannons coach Bill Daye called the decision "unfortunate," but said he felt Shamel Bratton, whom the Cannons picked fourth overall in the first round of January's collegiate draft, didn't have a clear picture of MLL when weighing professional options.

MLL personnel were forbidden by the league to ask draftees for an MLL commitment until their college seasons were finished, to not ruin their college eligibility. Long Island coach Jim Mule said the Lizards declined to reach out to Rhamel at all during the season. Daye did not speak with Shamel until Virginia's season ended with a national championship earlier this week.

"Since Monday, I have had an opportunity to speak to him and the No. 1 priority on his mind is trying to get back in good standing with the lacrosse community," Daye said of Shamel, who was kicked off the Virginia men's lacrosse team prior to the Cavaliers' game against Penn April 30 for violating team policies, according to the university. "Not having an opportunity to talk to him throughout this whole process definitely hurt in his situation, because he was under the impression of a few things ... He didn't have an idea of what it was like playing in the MLL and what we would have been able to do for him."

Mule, who drafted Rhamel Bratton in the third round, called the decision "disappointing" three times while responding to questions about it on the MLL's weekly coaches conference call.

Mule offered a similar perspective to Daye, saying the Brattons may have been uniformed about the workings of the league, all the way down to banalities such as the league schedule. But he said the Lizards will move on.

"He would have been a fantastic player in the MLL. The MLL fits his style even more than the college game," Mule said of Rhamel, who had been indefinitely suspended prior to the Penn game for violating team rules, and did not play the rest of the season. "We're disappointed from that standpoint, but he made a decision. I don't understand or agree with it, but that's the way it goes."

Mule also said the preseason draft had benefits, such as allowing fans, coaches and players to follow the picks during the college season, but in this case, "that's the danger of having the draft before, where we would have probably been having it today. You would have a chance to interview, find out about a player, what their commitment is going to be."

Long Island and Boston had concerns about drafting either Bratton on draft night in January given rumors then of their intent to play LXM. Both teams went ahead anyway, although the Lizards steered clear of selecting either Shamel or Rhamel in the first two rounds given the risk.

On draft night, Mule spoke to LaxMagazine.com about the Brattons, and the Lizards front office was considering passing on Shamel even if he were available with Long Island's fifth overall pick in the first round. The debate ended when Boston selected Shamel with the fourth pick.

"Obviously, there was some concern there," Daye said. "[But] when we were sitting there on draft day and you look at the offensive players that were coming out of college, there are very few who we thought could step in and make a dramatic impact on their team once they stepped on the field. Shamel Bratton was definitely one of those guys. It was a chance we took."

The Lizards took midfielder Zach Brenneman from Notre Dame fifth.

"There were rumors," Mule said. "I spoke to one person who knew them who said they were definitely going to play in MLL and want to play on the biggest stage. Then people said they wanted to move out to California and not be committed to playing at a high level and do the LXM thing. You heard different stories, but that's why I didn't want to take a chance in the first or second round. The risk-benefit of the third round pick was worth it for us. I still feel good about that. We still have his rights as well."

Teams retain current players' and draftees rights through the end of the season, at which point they decide which players to keep on the protected roster for the following season.

"At the end of the season, we'll make that decision again," Mule said. "Does he want to play at the highest level? Right now, we're focused on all the guys who want to be part of the Lizards, and we're excited about the draft picks that are coming in. The next time we talk about Rhamel will be after the season."

Shamel and Rhamel Bratton did not immediately return an inquiry to comment on their decision and the Virginia season in general. LXM is holding an event Sunday at Orange Coast College, in Orange County, Calif. The Lizards host Denver Friday. Boston hosts Chesapeake on Saturday.

"If we would have had a chance to speak with him through the whole process, there's a good chance he would be suiting up for the Boston Cannons this weekend," Daye said of Shamel. "It is what it is. We have to take care of business this Saturday with the personnel that we have."

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