When coach Bill Gorrow is asked what that strapping young man from British Columbia is doing at Anne Arundel Community College with a stick in his hands, he has a short answer and a long one.
The short answer is that Bruce Alexander (6 feet 5, 240 pounds) is playing attack for Gorrow's lacrosse team, ranked No. 3 in the nation's junior college poll. The native of Victoria, British Columbia, who's among Anne Arundel's leading scorers, met Gorrow at Loyola College coach Dave Cottle's Top 205 summer camp in 1993.
The long answer is more involved. Alexander played box lacrosse every summer from the ages of 6 through 18, as well as high school basketball and ice hockey -- in the same season. He turned down a basketball scholarship to a Canadian university and instead played Junior A hockey in Victoria for two years while attending a community college.
In 1992, playing field lacrosse for the first time, he helped Canada win the bronze medal in the under-19 world championships behind the United States and Australia. He also played for the Victoria Waxmen, the team that earlier spawned Gary and Paul Gait and Tom Marechek, who went on to glittering careers at Syracuse.
"Through connections, I got a spot in the Top 205 camp, but didn't meet Coach Gorrow until the final day," Alexander said.
Gorrow had watched him all week, however, and heard positive things about him from Cottle and Johns Hopkins coach Tony Seaman, who was also on the staff. From Alexander's camp roommate, David Marks, the son of Villanova coach Randy Marks, Gorrow heard rave notices about the Canadian as a person.
"We figured Bruce could grow into field lacrosse in junior college and come out with guns blazing to a four-year school," Gorrow said.
Alexander returned to Victoria, worked for an auction company for 18 months while playing field and box lacrosse, all the while maintaining contact with Gorrow. In January of this year he arrived as a freshman at Anne Arundel.
"I was certainly old enough, and I needed to get something
started," said Alexander, who turned 22 on Thursday. "I had always dreamed of playing in the States."
In these early weeks of Anne Arundel's season, Alexander is adjusting to field lacrosse, U.S. style. There is less contact than in box, more running and fluid movement, more set plays and more room to maneuver. Box, Alexander noted, is essentially run and gun and fast break.
"He's already at the point where he's on a rapid upswing on the learning curve," Gorrow said. "Rather than having only four or five set plays like he had with the Canadian under-19 team, we teach read and react. You have to be a thinker as well as a doer."
Most box players use only one hand, and Alexander is trying to develop what Gorrow calls "his off hand."
"He's a good role model for these kids," Gorrow said. "They see how he handles himself in bad as well as good situations. He has a good disposition and stays level-headed and focused, no matter what."
Once Anne Arundel's season ends, Alexander will return home to play this summer in the senior men's box league for the Victoria Shamrocks, who made him their No. 1 draft pick.
He'll be back in the fall, but it's unlikely he'll have an experience similar to the one he had upon arriving in January. On his way to class, he bumped into someone familiar. Almost in unison, they asked: "What are you doing here?"
It was Alex Smith, fellow Oak Bay High grad and a soccer playmate since the age of 6 who lived five minutes from Alexander in Victoria.