Former Cary lacrosse player Josh Blackley was that rare big brother who didn’t mind having his little brother tagging along. “Little Phil” was welcomed to watch Cary practices in addition to attending games.
“You’d see Little Phil with a lacrosse stick hanging around all the time,” said Cary coach Scott Gordon, whose first season as the Imps’ coach was Josh’s senior year in 2009.
These days “Little Phil” isn’t so little. Philip Blackley is a 6-8 junior attacker for the Imps’ lacrosse team. Josh was only 6-2, so Philip’s height compared to his “big” brother threw off some of Cary’s assistant coaches as they looked forward to Philip reaching high school and joining the program.
“Every year they kept saying, ‘When’s Little Phil going to get here?’ ” Gordon said. “I’d say, ‘He’s only sixth grade.’ I never imagined Little Phil would turn out to be so big.”
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He has been worth the wait for a program that has an uphill struggle competing without as many club or year-round players as other schools. Blackley scored three goals as Cary showed improvement in an 11-7 loss to Athens Drive on April 18 a month after falling to the Jaguars, 14-6.
Philip following Josh in Cary’s Kelly green and white isn’t limited to lacrosse. Josh also played basketball for the Imps, and Philip has been on the Cary varsity since his freshman year. He helped the Imps finish as the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A runner-up in 2016.
“I always looked up to my brother, and I fell in love with lacrosse when I watched him play,” Philip said. “But I also love the basketball program at Cary. It’s so much fun to be a part of it.”
One game is indoors on the hardwood and the other outdoors on the grass, but the skills are similar. Lacrosse has been called basketball with sticks.
“There is a lot of sliding of your feet that transfers over,” Philip said. “I had an easy time picking up the stick. My brother has taught me a lot about the game. He played defense, so I’ve learned how to play offense against defenses.”
Gordon said Blackley’s rare height in the sport makes it difficult for teams to take the ball from him. He’s also a left-hander, which allows the Imps to set up their offense with attackers from both sides using their natural hands.
“You have to be ambidextrous, but it’s always nice to have a natural left-hander,” Gordon said. “Basketball helps Phil with having a high lacrosse IQ. There are a lot of picks and rolls. It makes him a better offensive player.
Blackley still has another year of high school to go, but Gordon thinks Blackley has the potential to play college lacrosse if he works on his game.
Blackley said he “loves N.C. State” and plans to attend the school as a student without much thought to playing in college.
However, Josh played on N.C. State’s club lacrosse program, so that’s a possible path for him.
“If he wants to play in college, he can do it,” Gordon said.