Brian Small hopes to make the Rush

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:58 AM ET

The carpet was the same shade of green as the grass.

Handling the stick and shooting the ball seemed reasonably routine and the equipment felt familiar. But after those similarities, the game was very different when Brian Small stepped onto the floor for his first experience of box lacrosse.

He was accustomed to the outdoor game where he had flourished in the American college ranks, but Small made the bold move to make his initial attempt at the indoor version happen at the same time that he would try to land his first professional contract.

It was a gutsy endeavour - in more ways than one. Not only had Small never played this type of lacrosse, he also made the journey from Baltimore to Edmonton on his own dime, forking out the bucks for a plane ticket, hotel room and meals all in a longshot bid to get a job with the Edmonton Rush.

A DIFFERENT GAME

"It's definitely a different game and it takes some time getting used to, but I think I can handle it. It's kind of like basketball back home," said Small after the Rush's afternoon intrasquad games were through at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park yesterday.

Small honed his craft on the expansive fields of the NCAA and put together a pretty fair resume for himself. In his senior season at Ohio Wesleyan University outside of Columbus, Ohio, the midfielder notched nine goals, including an overtime winner, garnered first team All-North Coast Athletic Conference kudos, and was an honourable mention on the Division III All-American team.

Small advertised his name, but there were no takers when it came time for the National Lacrosse League draft so he went about selling himself. A.J. Jomha, the Rush's director of lacrosse operations, offered him a chance - a pay-your-own-way opportunity, but with more spots up for grabs on an expansion team than an already established squad, Small put his plan in gear. First step, this open tryout. Then an invite to the 40-man main camp beginning Nov. 5.

"I had to scrounge up the money but no guts, no glory," chuckled Small.

But it was no laughing matter when Small made his debut in the indoor game Friday in the first round of practice and scrimmages.

DRILLS AND BUTTERFLIES

''It's so confined. I was just amazed," he said. "Once I got the drills and butterflies out of the way I was good to go. The toughest thing was adapting to the space and how big the goalies are and how small the goals are.

"There are some skills I need to improve on because the indoor game is different - like knowing which side of the floor to come down on. In field lacrosse, you just come down wherever and here you have to come down on the proper side, get the ball hot and move it."

Could his physical tools be enough to warrant the precious element of time to learn and adapt?

"Probably not," conceded Rush GM/head coach Paul Day. "But you've got to give him credit. It's pretty tough coming into a situation where you've never played the game. He shoots well off the rush and he's a good athlete, so we'll have a look. But I look at it that there are guys here who've been sweating in rinks for 20 years and they've grown up with the game. It'd be different if it was an 80-game schedule. But we're a new team and we need guys that know the game."


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