Beast Baptiste set to be greatest four-year DU athlete of all time

Photo:Courtesy of US Lacrosse Magazine

The statistics and awards speak for themselves:

  • Selected as the first draft pick by Major League Lacrosse Boston Cannons last week.  Baptiste became the first DU player to receive that honor in the history of the league.
  • The first faceoff specialist (FOGO – Faceoff, get-off) to be nominated for the Tewaaraton Award for College Lacrosse best player.
  • Baptiste is second in NCAA Division I history in faceoff wins (1,093) and ground balls (602) – just 24 more wins off the NCAA record  He will own the record, barring injury, in the next game or two.
  • Baptiste has had double-digit faceoff wins in 63-of-64 games and 15 or more wins in 45 games.
  • Baptiste’s four-year run began when he set the NCAA record for single-season faceoff wins by a freshman (310) in 2015, helping lead the Pioneers to their first national title.
  • A three-time USILA First Team All-America selection
  • Baptiste is a finalist for the 2018 Senior CLASS Award – given to the outstanding senior NCAA Division I Student-Athlete of the Year across nine different sports.
  • Has won an astounding 77.5% of his faceoffs this season and while scoring six goals in Denver’s last six games to bring his career total to 28 goals to go along with 12 assists.
  • In this writer’s view, he is the odds-on favorite for the 2018 Tewaaraton Award

Lightly recruited out of high school, Trevor Baptiste was headed to Franklin and Marshall College on a lacrosse scholarship when spotted by Denver staff at a faceoff camp. The soft-spoken Baptiste rapidly transformed into ‘the Beast’ at Denver – an unstoppable force that could be counted on every game for DU for extra possessions. And possessions lead, inevitably, to goals and, of course, wins – 53 out of 64 games.

All this from a player who claims to be living a dream, claiming he was ‘not very good’ at lacrosse when he took up the game in 5th grade. But the modesty belies the truth, Baptiste is a great athlete. And he has taken what used to be one of the more mundane aspects of lacrosse, the faceoff, and turned it into an art.

Here are this writer’s four favorite moves by Trevor Baptiste at the X:

180 Crab: Baptiste clamps the ball with shoulders low to the ground and, like a sumo wrestler, drives the ball into the ground and rotates 180 degrees as the circle of offensive and defensive players collapses on the pile. Somehow, Baptiste emerges from the mass with an outreached stick and the ball sitting up in the pocket nearly every time.

Thru-the-wickets: In one motion, Baptists clamps the ball at the whistle and directs the ball between his own legs with a perfectly direct ground ball to a teammate waiting for the delivery.

‘I give up’: After drawing numerous flinching penalties from opponents, Baptiste’s speed is so overwhelming that, at the referee’s whistle, the defending FOGO doesn’t even attempt to clamp the ball. Instead, at the whistle, the defender is in full retreat pulling AWAY from the ball towards his own goal and running back on defense.

Clamp, pop, boom: Baptiste clamps the ball, pops it into the air to himself, charges, unassisted, to the top of the key and places a cannon shot into the back of the net. Several times during his career, this move has changed the entire momentum of games in DU’s favor.

And, while Baptiste has a pleasant personality, he can deliver punishment as well. With players trying to take him off his game by falling on top of him, diving at his knees, and hitting him with sticks, Baptiste has road-graded a few opponents with this 230-pound frame in the open field. But mostly, he concentrates on his specialty – frustrating opponents by applying his speed and skill with amazing consistency.

Since the inception of the Tewaaraton Award in 2001, Baptiste would be the first African-American to receive the annual award if he wins. Jim Brown was awarded the Legends Tewaarton Award and was the first recognized African American lacrosse player by the Tewaarton Committee. Two Native American players have won the award – Myles and Lyle Thompson.

As we head into next weekend’s final regular season home game against Marquette, we may be watching Trevor Baptiste display his amazing skills at DU for one last time. That is unless DU is awarded a first-round NCAA playoff game.

And the last four years? We have simply watched the greatest tenure for a University of Denver athlete in the history of the athletics program.