(This post originally appeared on College Crosse.)
Matt Rambo will graduate as the all-time leading scorer in school history and in NCAA tournament history. His stat line (1G, 1A) from the National Championship wasn’t overly impressive, but his ability to draw double-teams as a dodger and as a picker was on display for 60 minutes.
Indirectly, Rambo had a hand in more than two of the Terps’ nine goals, and in several of their quality shots. His decision-making and physical stature will translate immediately to Major League Lacrosse, where he can play the two-man game with Charlotte Hounds teammate Joey Sankey (UNC ’15). Sankey scored 19 points (10G, 9A) in pick-and-roll situations last season – more than anyone other than Jordan Wolf – per moneyballlacrosse.com.
Very few dodgers can downshift as well as Rambo. At full speed, the 210 lb. Rambo can run into the teeth of the defense like a truck with the brakes cut; yet as soon as he draws a double team, he can bounce wide, back pedal, and find the open man. There are two picks at X here. The second produces a switch which Ohio State immediately attempts to flush, with nobody filling the crease. Defenses need to leave the skip pass open (though even then, Rambo can make it), because feeds to the crease are too easy for a high-level passer like Rambo.
Rambo is as comfortable on the high wing as he is at X. Picks above goal-line extended require physical play from the picker’s man; without it, Rambo would have his hands free in a second. Ohio State jumps the pick, leaving the roll man – Tim Rotanz – open. Rotanz sets up Jared Bernhardt for one of the best looks either side saw all game.
The respect Rambo receives from a defense as the ball-carrier is matched when he serves as a picker. Ohio State takes its chances trying to fight through this pick rather than losing the matchup on Rambo. Dylan Maltz makes them pay for that – just like Joey Sankey will at the next level.
MLL defenses won’t worry as much about matchups. With 60-second shot clocks and so many dodging threats on the field, there’s an emphasis on defending now – not two or three minutes down the road. Expect MLL defenses to help from Rambo, but unless that help defense is on the same page, he can become a passing threat off the roll.
Look for Rambo to spend more time picking for Sankey early in his career. The third-year Hound has struggled to score alongside these early season Hounds lineups. All eyes are on Sankey, who is shooting 3-for-27 (11.1%) off the dodge (down from 24.7% last season per moneyballlacrosse.com). As a pick-and-roll operator, Sankey has a knack for running by – and around – both his and the picker’s defender.
As the two Philadelphia natives develop chemistry, Rambo may play as the ball-carrier more often. Sankey has served as a picker before, and his brand of picks is much livelier than a warm body serving as a road block. He’s a heads-up player who can send a touch pass right back to his teammate when he senses the defense shifting toward his direction.
Ultimately why Charlotte picked Rambo (and why Maryland will miss him) is because with the game on the line, he can put his head down and create his own shot. Whether that’s off the dodge or off the pick, there aren’t many defensemen who can keep Rambo in front of them – and even fewer who can do so while sliding or closing out.
ESPN commentator Paul Carcaterra described this goal perfectly: Rambo “smelled blood in the water.” After the two-man game draws a third defender, Rambo reverses and feasts on the fatigued footwork of the sliding Buckeye.
That ability to attack the cage is what Maryland fans will remember about Rambo. It’ll add some nastiness to a Hounds offense currently shooting only 22.4% off the dodge per moneyballlacrosse.com. Rambo arrived at Maryland as a finisher. He left as a multi-dimensional player and the leading scorer in team history. I cannot wait to see what he can become in Major League Lacrosse.