DURHAM — When Jordan Wolf was growing up in suburban Philadelphia, he watched Duke attackman Matt Danowski, who went on to become the NCAAs all-time leading scorer.
Now a senior at Duke, Wolf has had quite the career of his own, becoming the first Blue Devil to earn four years worth of all-ACC honors. He has registered a point in every game since May 28, 2011 a span of 55 contests and is the NCAAs active leader in career goals (166) and points (268). He has posted his most productive years as a junior and senior, thanks in large part to the tutelage of his former favorite player, now an assistant coach for the Blue Devils.
He was a big reason I always wanted to come to Duke, Wolf said of Danowski. His style of play, and now that he coaches me, its like a dream come true, really.
Wolf will return to suburban Philadelphia for his final ACC tournament, as second-ranked Duke, (12-2, 4-1 ACC), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, faces the No. 3 seed, Syracuse (9-3, 2-3 ACC), ranked No. 4 nationally. Its a rematch of last years NCAA title game, played in the same park. Wolf led Duke with eight goals and four assists in his homecoming last season, as the Blue Devils took home their second national championship.
When Wolf, who is listed at 5-9, 170 pounds, arrived in Durham from Lower Merion, not one of the traditional high school lacrosse powerhouses, his field vision and going to his left, his non-dominant hand, needed work. But he had gifts that couldnt be taught: speed and explosiveness.
Its that first step and that burst thats just uncoverable, almost, fellow senior attackman Josh Dionne said. Hes built like a boulder, but its those first five yards that just make him uncoverable.
When Danowski, who graduated in 2007 and finished playing in 2008, came back to work at Duke under his dad prior to the 2013 season, Wolf was a rising junior, ready to follow up on a season in which he led the Blue Devils with 65 points. Head coach John Danowski moved to work with the defenders so Matt, who still plays Major League Lacrosse with the Charlotte Hounds, could work with the attack.
Matt Danowski and Wolf worked together daily, shooting before practice and watching film afterward. They worked on seeing the whole field, learning to set up to score without the ball.
I tried to take a little pressure off of him. I think he felt a lot of pressure being the No. 1 guy, always drawing the first pole, so I try to make lacrosse more of a fun thing than anything else and teach him the intricacies, Danowski said. He wants to make every play. He wants to score goals, get assists, pick up ground balls, ride; he wants to help the team in any way that he can, and he gets frustrated when he doesnt hit every single shot. And thats something weve tried to work on, not living and dying with every play.
If its a good take, its a good take. If you dont hit it Tiger doesnt make every putt, MJ didnt make every free throw its just the way it is. Theres another play coming along pretty quickly here. Thats the beauty of our game, you have a chance to make another play so quickly.
Instant amnesia is what the Duke attackmen like to call their habit of moving on quickly to the next play. Its easier said than done, as Matt Danowski readily admits its something he struggled with at Duke, too. But it definitely started to click for Wolf during last seasons championship weekend, and it has carried over to this season.
When he freaks out or gets frustrated and comes back down to Earth and says, Sorry, I probably shouldnt have done that or said that, or I shouldnt have tried to break that guys arm while I was riding, thats the stuff that I love, Danowski said. As a person, he has really grown this year as a leader and is enjoying himself. Hes not scared to be himself around the guys, which has been fun to watch.
One thing that hasnt changed: his ability to get to the net and score goals.
Duke attackmen, its like your birthright to get points, Danowski said of his players. The thing that strikes me about Jordan, always, is that when a game is over, youre like, wow, I didnt know Jordan had six goals, I didnt realize he had four today. He just is so quietly consistent with his ability to make a play.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley