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Grant Learning and Owning the NLL Ropes, ‘More Comfortable’ Each Game

One of the bright spots on the Warriors veteran laden defense has been that of rookie Owen Grant. 

Grant and fellow first year defender Brayden Laity are tied for second-most loose balls collected on the Warriors with 68 through the season so far, right behind vet Matt Beers who has 71. Grant says the coaching staff does a thorough scout during the lead up to the game, prepping the group with film and playing in a system that allows the defense to be successful.  

Grant also mentions that the team studies where opposing offences like to attack from to give his team the best chance to stop them and recover the ball has played into what shows up on the stat sheet. 

“It’s part of our system but I like to play an aggressive style, I don’t like to sit back, so I think that’s definitely part of it. Putting ourselves in positions to try and make plays and that’s something that our system allows for our defensive group,” Grant said. “We like to use our athleticism, get out on guys, get in their hands and that can create those turnovers.” 

Ryan Dilks is leading the league in forced turnovers with 29 and with Grant’s tough style of play, he’s second on the team with 19. Grant says being ready all the time is half the battle of being a defender. You have to go out for those 30 seconds, leave it all out on the floor and seek every opportunity to recover the ball and give the Warriors a chance to score. 

“If you take one or two seconds off in this league during those 30 seconds that you’re on the floor, and the ball is going to be in the back of your net. We’ve got a lot of guys that are really good at creating turnovers – Dilks leading the league is no surprise. When the ball starts poppin’ out on the turf you have to be ready to go get ‘em!” he said. 

When Warriors’ General Manager and Head Coach Curt Malawsky looks at what a defenseman brings to the table, he uses the eye test during games and watching film to see how a player shows up and then he uses the numbers to add to the story. 

“I think the way he plays, the pace he plays at, the athleticism and style he plays is something you can’t quantify. He picks up some of the top offensive guys in the league and shuts down some of the best athletes in the National Lacrosse League. His style of play is exactly what we want and to add his stats on top of that shows the kind of player he is,” Malawsky said. 

Former pro lacrosse player and now Lacrosse analyst Teddy Jenner, and NLL.com writer, Adam Levi, mentioned Grant as a potential candidate for Rookie of the Year as he’s shown he can defend the league’s top scorers and seeing the maturation of his game “well beyond his years.” 

The 23-year-old has more confidence game over game and feeling more comfortable on the floor goes a long way. The more games he plays, the better the chemistry is with teammates and being able to read off one another easier.  

Grant’s experience has shown him there’s no better substitute for getting reps in games to help him grow as a player. The team’s veteran defensemen have been a big help for him to accelerate the learning curve and putting that together with the on-field experience, he’s improved the way he approaches the game physically and mentally with each outing.   

“Until you start playing a couple games you really feel like your head’s spinning out there. The ball moves so fast, the skill level is just unbelievable, so I think just getting those first couple games under your belt and settling in and being able to feel confident out there rather than always guessing what’s coming is helpful,” Grant said.  

“A lot of teams run the same kind of offence and they’re looking for the same looks so once you play a couple games you start to anticipate a little better and feel a little more confident about yourself. I really feel you can’t be playing your best lacrosse unless you’re feeling confident and comfortable in the situation.” 

Malawsky sees how far Grant has come from the first few games of the season – the youthful inexperience and getting caught in tough spots – to a more poised and mature player just over halfway through his first NLL season. 

There’s a laundry list of things Grant excels at and at the top are Grant’s compete level and willingness to do anything it takes to win which are innate. 

“He’s under control, he’s making good decisions under pressure, and he knows the system very well. I think it’s a trust factor between the coaches and the players and I think Owen can trust us coaches and we can trust him as a player, and I think you only get that over time,” Malawsky shared.  

“I think he’s definitely earned that respect, that trust from us and he’s a pleasure to coach. He’s so humble, I don’t think he realizes how good he is and even if he did there’s no cockiness or arrogance about him, he just goes to work night in and night out and he’s a fierce competitor. We talk about trying to model your franchise around certain guys, he’s definitely a cornerstone of the franchise for years and years to come.” 

As Grant continues to improve in the NLL, he’ll continue to get more comfortable and work his way towards being one of the league’s most formidable defenders. 

Vancouver Warriors