When Brian Willetts was 9 years old, he gave his father a sizable bruise on his hip that lasted two weeks.
It was then that Willetts' father, Tom, realized it wasn't exactly safe, despite the amount of protective equipment he wore, for him to play goalie as his son sharpened his lethal lacrosse shot.
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"I remember I took one shot on him and he just said, 'All right, that's it, I'm not staying in there anymore,' " said Willetts, a Smithtown East junior attack. "It definitely wasn't a good feeling for him. At first, I kind of laughed until I realized how bad it hurt him. After that, I felt bad and we never did that again."
Tom had a lacrosse helmet on, wore a chest protector and even used catcher shin guards. None of it helped.
"I put the stick down, took off the mask and just went back in the house," Tom recalled.
Not many could blame him. At a lacrosse showcase the summer before his 16th birthday, Willetts' shot was timed at 105 mph. The Major League Lacrosse record for fastest shot is 114 mph, set by Mike Sawyer of the Charlotte Hounds last year, according to league spokesman Marco Rosa. In other words, Willetts' shot velocity is virtually unparalleled at the high school level.
"I've never heard of anyone else doing it quite honestly on a high school team," said Jason Lambert, who has coached Smithtown East for 12 seasons. "For a guy to approach 90 would be impressive."
Much of Willetts' power derives from his frame: he's 6-3, 200 pounds. It helped Willetts, who has committed to play lacrosse at North Carolina, score 52 goals last season after racking up 33 as a freshman. In five games so far in 2014, he has 18 goals and eight assists.
He isn't all speed and power, though. Like a pitcher who possesses a 95-mph heater yet also knows when to mix in a good changeup, Willetts has learned how to outsmart his opponents, as well.
"That's the psychology I bring to lacrosse," said Willetts, a student with a 93 average. "If I'm playing a great goalie and my first shot is sidearm and I'm ripping it high, I might think about going overhand and low the next time or varying speed. I always want to keep him on his toes."
He seems to never tire from trying to improve -- even after scoring six goals in a 12-4 quarterfinal playoff win against West Islip last season.
"He was out there with a bucket in the parking lot," Lambert said. "He was taking more shots and dodging more. I haven't had a kid do that. Not after a quarterfinal, after scoring six goals. Never."
Willetts, a humble yet confident type, who also plays varsity basketball and football, projects to have astonishing junior and senior seasons. College scouts and lacrosse pundits gush over the type of scorer he could become at the next level.
Willetts, however, is constantly reminding himself that potential could disappear just as quickly as the lacrosse ball does from his stick.
"I don't necessarily like the word potential," he said. "Every day, I'm just going to work as hard as I can and get better than I was before I walked on the field. That's the mentality of a competitor and the mentality of someone who just wants to win."