The Devils made them do it.
Brennan O’Neill, Jake Naso and Aidan Danenza – a trio of St. Anthony’s seniors who helped the Friars capture the state Catholic boys lacrosse championship last spring – greeted the national signing day on Wednesday morning by putting pen to paper and committing to Duke.
It’s a serious take for the Blue Devils. O’Neill is a 6-2 attackman who had 56 goals and 16 assists last season and was Newsday’s Long Island Player of the Year; he also was ranked as the No. 1 national recruit, according to insidelacrosse.com. Naso, a powerful faceoff specialist, won about 80 percent of his faceoffs last season and was the website’s top-ranked player at his position. Danenza, a fleet-footed midfielder, had 22 goals and 20 assists and is among the site’s 10 best at his position.
“We all came to Duke in different ways, but it’s going to be great that all of us are there,” O’Neill said. “Having friends should make the transition to college easier and I love playing with those guys.”
St. Anthony’s coach Keith Wieczorek said of O’Neill: “If you were going to build a lacrosse player in a laboratory, he is the kid you’d come out with – he is strong and fast and super-athletic.”
“What sets him apart is his unselfishness,” Danenza said. “He draws a double team and he finds his teammates. He never tries to do alone, even though he probably could.”
O’Neill described Danenza as “exactly what you want in a midfielder. He has a way of seeing the field that you have to be born with. It’s not something you can learn.”
Naso had a strong sophomore season but Wieczorek said “I’ve never seen a player raise his level like he did that next season . . . He turned himself into one of the best faceoff guys in the country with his work ethic.”
Signing with Duke fulfilled a lifelong dream for both Naso and Danenza.
“They’ve always been on TV and I always said to myself ‘one day, I want that to be me – one day I want to be on that big stage in front of a big crowd,’ ” Naso said. Duke surfaced late in his recruiting and he said, “that was the dream come true.”
Duke was among Danenza’s first suitors and he couldn’t resist. “It’s Duke and it has it all from academics to athletics,” he said.
O’Neill’s commitment to the Blue Devils was more love-at-first-sight. He took an intellectual approach as he considered the possibility of going to Duke and said “when you weigh the pros and cons, I saw no cons.” Then he went to campus.
“It was amazing, just jaw-dropping,” he said. I wanted to be around the type of kids they have there and there is a lot of Long Island influence with [head coach John Danowski] and it really makes you feel at home even though you’re in North Carolina. They know where you’re coming from and that was a big thing for me.”
Six more Friars commit
Midfielder Jack Walshe inked to go to Virginia and five others signed commitments to play college lacrosse in the Greater New York area. Defenseman Sean Conk and midfielder Quentin Sommer will go to Stony Brook, faceoff specialist Joseph Bruno will play at Hofstra, attackman James Osorio is headed to Monmouth and goalkeeper Alex Pazienza is bound for Sacred Heart.