He was a 13-year-old lacrosse prodigy just trying to make the varsity as an eighth-grader in the spring of 2009. That was daunting enough for Tim Rotanz. But what made the situation more challenging than a stick-checking double-team was that his father, Tom, was the coach. No way Tim's every move wasn't going to be heavily scrutinized.
"I sensed it . I had a little chip on my shoulder,'' said Rotanz, now a senior attack at Shoreham-Wading River. "People would say, 'Oh, it's because of your dad.' So that really pushed me to play harder and do better.''
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Rotanz cashed in that "little chip.'' By his sophomore year, he was a nationally known blue-chip prospect who signed to play for No. 1 Maryland before his junior year. Inside Lacrosse magazine rated him as the No. 3 recruit in the country.
Rotanz, who scored 48 points as a 5-9, 160-pound eighth-grader, has grown into a 6-1, 200-pound beast. "He's a two-way threat,'' Tom Rotanz said. "If you send doubles, he'll find someone. If you don't send doubles, he'll bury one.''
Rotanz has a hard body and a hard shot to go along with a soft passing touch that has produced 309 career points (181 goals, 128 assists). As the focal point of Shoreham-Wading River's defending state Class C championship team, Rotanz figures to exceed last year's total of 91 points and become only the fourth player in Long Island history to join the 400 Club.
Points come quickly from his stick; words come slowly from his mouth. "The thing that I'm most proud of,'' his father said, "is how humble he is and how he truly doesn't like the limelight.''
That's one of the reasons Rotanz chose Maryland. The two-time All-American and two-time Newsday All-Long Island selection was recruited by dozens of colleges but liked the idea of being somewhat invisible at Big Ten-bound Maryland, where lacrosse is dwarfed by big-time football and basketball.
Tom Rotanz told a revealing anecdote about Tim's recruitment. "We visited a place that is very well known,'' Tom said, declining to mention the school's name. "The coach told Tim, 'When you mention Notre Dame, you think football. When you mention Duke, you think basketball. When you mention us, you think lacrosse. Anywhere you go in this town, everyone is going to know your name.' We got in the car and Timmy said, 'I don't want that.' ''
His ability to feed or finish in transition will serve him well at Maryland, where he is part of a recruiting class that includes the country's top three attackmen. But he doesn't consider himself a finished product. "Dodging, quickness, consistency. I want to improve everything,'' he said.
He has done that since eighth grade. "When I first got to the varsity, I got most of my points in transition, just finishing,'' Rotanz said. "Now I'm the initiator. Most of the offense goes through me. Especially this year, because we have a young team.''
But no one on the Wildcats' roster is as young as Tim was when his father brought him to the varsity for the first time, a bit reluctantly. "It was two days before our first game when the captains came into my office and said, 'We think Timmy should start,' '' the elder Rotanz said, "so that was the validation.''
Tim has started every game since. He had his best season as a sophomore (110 points), playing alongside his brother, Tom Jr., on a team that won the county championship. Last year, he helped bring SWR its first state lacrosse title since 2007. "I'd like my legacy to be the first team in school history to win the state championship twice,'' Tim said.
Reflecting on the experience of playing for his father, Tim noted, "It's been a lot of fun, but it's been a bit different. He doesn't want to ever compliment me or yell at me. So he doesn't talk to me much.''
Tom confirmed that, saying, "I've never yelled at him once in five years. I've never praised him, either. So I don't want to hear anything from anyone.''
Then the father paused. Clearly, a lack of conversation doesn't mean a lack of emotion about his son's last hurrah. "It definitely puts a pit in my stomach,'' Tom said.
About the size of the chip that used to be on Tim's shoulder.