Navy's Hull increasingly a focus on and off field
Tucker Hull is too busy trying to score a goal or find an open teammate to notice what his opponent is doing. It's only a few days afterward, when the Navy sophomore attackman is reviewing game film, that he sees how he affects defensemen when he has the ball.
Hull's influence is even noticeable to fellow sophomore attackman Sam Jones.
"When I look back at the film, when Tucker has the ball, there are a lot of people looking at him," Jones said. "People get worried. They get happy feet, and they get nervous. … I'm sure during the week leading up to a game, they're saying, '[No.] 39 is dangerous, 39 can do this and 39 can do that.' I'd be shocked if teams weren't just absolutely keying in on him."
Said Hull: "I don't really notice it during the game. … I don't really think about or even see the defensemen watching me or keying in on me at all."
Slowly but surely, Hull is beginning to draw attention as one of the more prolific offensive players in college lacrosse. Hull entered this week ranked second in Division I in points per game with 5.1, trailing only Colgate junior midfielder Peter Baum's 5.4 average.
In recent weeks, the academy's sports information department has received requests from the media to interview Hull, who is still unaccustomed to his newfound popularity.
"Honestly, it's kind of annoying in a way," he said. "In another way, I guess I can't really expect anything else. I'm kind of a quiet, reserved person when it comes to being off the field. I've had kids come up to me after a game, and they actually knew my name. So that's really weird. It's definitely a different feeling."
But Hull, the Patriot League's Rookie of the Year last season, isn't included often in the discussion for the Tewaaraton Award, given annually to the top college player.
With Cornell senior attackman Rob Pannell still recovering from a broken left foot, much of the discussion has centered on reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Steele Stanwick, the senior attackman from Virginia and Loyola High, along with a host of second-tier candidates, including Denver senior attackman Mark Matthews, Loyola junior attackman Mike Sawyer and Notre Dame junior goalie John Kemp.
CBS Sports Network analyst Steve Panarelli, who will provide commentary on Friday night's Patriot League showdown between No. 17 Navy and visiting No. 8 Lehigh, said one reason for Hull's absence from the Tewaaraton conversation is the Mids' 5-3 record. But Panarelli said Hull is deserving of more accolades.
"I think what's really impressive about him is not only the points, but the balance of points. He's got 21 goals and 20 assists," the former Syracuse All-American defenseman said. "That says a lot about a player. A lot of times when you're talking about the stars of lacrosse, some have 45 goals and three assists. That says they're scoring but they're not really well-balanced. For a sophomore, he's doing everything. He's finding guys, and he's creating his own shot."
Hull, who picked up lacrosse as a fifth-grader in Charlotte, N.C., tried his hand at midfield, close defense and even goalkeeper but permanently made the switch to attack in eighth grade because his older brother Tyler was a goalie and, as Hull put it, "having two goalies in the house doesn't really make sense when you want to go out and shoot on each other."
In his first year of college lacrosse, Hull had 23 goals and 15 assists and edged Jones for the Patriot League honor. After converting 37.7 percent of his shots (23 of 61) last year, Hull has succeeded on 40.4 percent (21 of 52) this season.
Hull attributed his improved shooting percentage to working with assistant coach J.L. Reppert, Jones and several other teammates in the preseason.
"It was two minutes of having two guys giving you passes," Hull said. "You'd run to one side and catch the ball and shoot it, and then loop back up around up top and get another shot. Two minutes doesn't sound like much, but you do a couple rounds of that, and you're about ready to throw up."
Navy coach Rick Sowell — who has coached, among others, four-time All-American attackman Jordan McBride and two-time All-American midfielder Kevin Crowley — said he has not coached a player like Hull.
"It's his versatility," Sowell said. "He's a player who's capable of scoring with the ball, he's good off the ball, he sees the field very well, he's very unselfish and capable of doling out assists as indicated by his stats. A lot of his goals aren't him dodging and breaking down his defender, but just being in the right place at the right time and finishing. So his versatility is his strong point."