Whitby's Duke of Lacrosse

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:16 AM ET

The old man had it figured out.

Dan Greer made his living rigging up refrigeration and air conditioning but he could make anything. They still talk about his portable Zamboni, a pipe he rigged into a soaker that he dragged around his homemade rink in Whitby.

Once, he took a lacrosse net and fashioned a panel that covered all but the corners. When you missed, the ball came back to you.When you hit a corner, the ball would roll down a tube and back out.

Zack Greer spent hours pounding the ball into those corners. So did his brother, Bill, now a member of the National Lacrosse League's Anaheim Storm, and sister, Kalley, now on a full lacrosse scholarship at Hamilton College in New York State.

For that matter, so did Amanda, maybe the best of the bunch, who spent most of her lacrosse years trading goals and elbows with the boys, at home and in leagues.

Mother Irene played the game for three years before taking a year off. Somewhere, Dan Greer, ex of the old Garrard Road League, is playing lacrosse, too.

Dan Greer died Jan. 31 of colon cancer. He was 52 and Zack is his prodigy. When Zack was four, the two started playing catch and as the distance between them lengthened, the bond between them grew stronger. Zack would walk Kalley to school with his dad.The goal was to go to and from the school with no drops, passing the ball all the way. Lacrosse came as naturally as breathing.

"Growing up in a lacrosse family was huge," Zack said from Durham, N.C., where he is on scholarship with Duke. "I looked up to all my other siblings.We were always at each other's games, watching each other play."

Zack spent most of his life playing box lacrosse, but there is little call for it in the U.S. Field lacrosse, however, has a following, particularly in the East.

There will be 10,000 in Baltimore on Friday night to watch hometown Johns Hopkins University, the No. 1 team in the U.S., play Duke, ranked No. 2.

The Blue Devils can bury you. They are second in the NCAA in scoring, averaging 13 goals a game, and Zack Greer leads Division I with 36 goals in 11 games.

This would be the first time in recent memory the goal-scoring crown was won by a Division I rookie but then, Zack Greer isn't really a rookie; not when they shoved a stick in your hand about the time you got your first fork.

"We had seven kids between us and we were looking for something they all could do," Irene Greer said. "You could start playing lacrosse at three, so lacrosse it was."

His dad's ball-return machine was Zack Greer's laboratory. "From the time he was three years old, Zack would practise for hours," his mom said. "He would practise before school and after. He would experiment all the time and when it worked he would burst in the house and say 'Mom, I've got a new move.' "

Zack led Canada to the championship game at the International Lacrosse Federation under-19s in Baltimore last summer. He scored 16 times and won a spot on the ILF's all-world team.

Last season, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, had 72 goals and 72 assists and won the playoff MVP with the junior A Whitby Warriors.

The best of times on the field has been overshadowed by the worst of times at home. His dad watched nearly every game he played.

"The week my dad died was just before our first game and it was tough to go to class and focus on my studies," he said.

"I've always felt that when I was playing lacrosse, I didn't have a care in the world. Now I know, when I play, my dad's right there with me."


Videos

Photos