Expectations are mounting for the highest returning scorer on the Ohio State lacrosse team as the men look toward their final exhibition game.
Junior midfielder Jesse King scored 32 goals for the Buckeyes last season and is looking to fill the void left by those who graduated. King was a 2014 Face-Off Yearbook Division I First Team All-American selection and was one of eight collegiate players to be selected to try out for Team Canada.
A familiar name also invited to try out for Team Canada was OSU’s all-time leading goal scorer Logan Schuss, who moved on to the pros after the 2013 season.
OSU coach Nick Myers said he believes Schuss helped with King’s maturation process.
“I think he (King) would be the first to tell you that a guy like Logan was a big part of that,” Myers said. “Logan really took him under his wings and I think it was great for him to have that kind of mentor.”
Over the offseason, OSU lost a couple of key seniors in Schuss as well as midfielder Dominique Alexander, and King said he knows he is going to have to step up in order to fill the leadership void they left.
Fellow junior midfielder David Planning said King has been playing like a veteran ever since stepping foot on campus.
“He was a leader and a captain from day one,” Planning said. “Whether it was on the field barking out orders with Logan and Dom, or outside of the field, it’s not new for him to pick up this leadership role this year.”
Coming to OSU from Victoria, British Columbia, King still goes back home during the offseason and plays box lacrosse for the Victoria Shamrocks.
Last summer, while playing with the junior team, King amassed 111 points in 15 games, good for third in the league despite playing fewer games because of OSU’s NCAA tournament run.
However, it was his call up with the senior team for the Western Lacrosse Association playoffs that King said was inspiring.
“When I got pulled up with the senior team, I met a lot of the guys that I dreamed about growing up,” King said. “It was cool to see how great they were to me, coming up as a young kid … it makes me reflect on guys coming up to our team and trying to be humble towards them.”
Those experiences have translated well in Columbus. Senior midfielder Michael Italiano said the way King conducts himself on and off the field helps make his teammates around him better.
“Jesse is a two-way kind of guy. He has a voice and knows the offense real well,” Italiano said. “He always comes in with a smile and a lot of energy … other players see that and they want to get better every day and follow his example.”
This season, as OSU looks to defend its ECAC tournament title, Myers knows there could be more focus put on King, but he believes the Claremont Secondary School product is ready to take on the challenge.
“Jesse is a very mature young man,” Myers said. “He is a guy that this year realizes that the spotlight is on him more and with that comes a bit more responsibility to manage his emotions and be the leader that we need him to be. I think he has really relished that and so far has done a nice job with it.”
King is one of four returning players for OSU who totaled more than 20 points last season, and he does not see any reason why that number can’t increase this year.
“We’ve got a great offense,” King said. “We have a lot of guys who are looking forward to step up … I’m excited for it.”
Myers described King as a humble player who recognizes what it means to put on an OSU uniform each game and noted that the midfielder always puts his teammates before himself.
“We talk about ‘we not me’ as one of our standards, and Jesse is a guy who exemplifies that,” Myers said. “He is a great teammate who really understands what Buckeye lacrosse is all about.”
King and the Buckeyes are set to be back in action Saturday at noon, hosting the Robert Morris Colonials in their third and final exhibition game at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.