WHITEWAY (BILLERICA, MASS.) WAS DESTINED FOR GREATNESS by Braden Campbell/ Grant Whiteway Jr., who was immersed in the game at an early age, followed his father to Billerica (Mass.) High. Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal. While they are now recognized as three of the best Massachusetts players to ever pick up a lacrosse stick, they were just schoolboys in 1997 when they traveled to Washington, D.C., with the Mass Bay Under-13 team. North Andover’s Jimmy Connolly would go on to one of the most impressive high school careers in state history, accumulating 523 points over his four years in a Scarlet Knights uniform. At the time, he was just the second athlete in high school history to break the 500-point barrier. Connolly split attack time on the trip to the nation’s capital with future Duxbury legend Max Quinzani, whose 577-point career haul would limit Connolly’s stay in the record book to one year. While Connolly and Quinzani displayed glimpses of their future brilliance, the third legend, while present, was a bit too young to get out on the field. Thirteen years before a stellar season that would see him rewrite the Massachusetts record books, Grant Whiteway Jr. was tagging along with his youth coach dad as a ballboy. “I started when I was, like, 3 or 4; my dad’s always been coaching,” Whiteway said. “I’ve been around it my whole life.” Over the past 30 years, Whiteway’s father, Grant Sr., has become synonymous with Billerica lacrosse. A 1983 graduate of Billerica High and an Indians lacrosse alumnus, the elder Whiteway spent a few summers as an assistant at the high school before becoming head varsity coach. In 1990, he left the high school to help found Billerica Youth Lacrosse with Steve Connolly, Jim’s dad, and Billerica lax great Tim McCaffrey. Grant Jr. was born in 1992, just as the youth program was getting into full swing. Almost as soon as he could walk, he was immersed in the game. By 2, he was waddling along the sidelines, stick in hand, sowing the seeds of his future prowess. By 4, he was regularly playing catch with his dad, and the elder Whiteway was careful to help his son develop pristine mechanics. By age 5, he had started running line drills alongside the middle schoolers his dad was coaching — at his own initiative, not his father’s prodding. “I never pushed him,” Grant Sr. said. “If he wanted to come, it was fine. If he wanted to stay home and do whatever kids do when they’re not playing lacrosse, he would do that, too. But most of the time, if not all the time, he would come. I’d never have to ask him twice.” In 2000, when his dad returned to Billerica High as an assistant, Grant Jr. followed … and played. Despite his opponents’ obvious size advantage — even freshmen dwarfed the 8-year-old during the practice session — his fundamentals allowed him to hold his own. Marc Colangelo, a 2003 Billerica grad, recalled watching in awe as the diminutive Whiteway squared up against high school defenders. “I remember him scoring on a couple of them,” Colangelo said. “Maybe the kid wasn’t playing hard on him, but to see him do a roll dodge and a split dodge and then take a shot, at 9 years old — that’s pretty cool to see for sure.” While his own coaching laid the foundation for Grant Jr.’s game, the elder Whiteway made sure to supplement his son’s lacrosse learning by sending him to camps. By the time he was ready to become a full-fledged member of the Indians’ varsity squad in 2008, Grant was easily among the best players on the team. He scored a team-high 62 goals that season to lead the Indians to the state final, where they lost, 13-12, in overtime to Duxbury. Maybe the elder Whiteway had taken his son’s skill for granted to that point, but it wasn’t until he saw Grant put up a game-high four goals in the championship that he recognized his son’s potential. “The state final, he took a big step forward,” Whiteway Sr. said. “He took the ball and took it on himself to go to the cage. He scored a couple big goals. That’s when I realized he was a special player.” When he reached high school, Whiteway gave up football to give himself more lacrosse time in the fall. After his sophomore year, he dropped wrestling to free himself up for some cold-weather training. If players such as Whiteway make the game look easy, it’s only because they work so hard. He has blisters on top of blisters, his dad says. Bloody hands can be seen year-round in the Whiteway household, and normal hours don’t apply to Grant, who has his own key to the All-American Lacrosse Academy in Woburn, where he practices shooting. Craig Flynn, who has known Grant Jr. since the early 2000s, took over as Billerica’s coach at the start of last season. He remembers a practice when the team didn’t have a net, which forced them to use a softball backstop in lieu of a goal. At the end of the drill, Flynn told his attackmen he’d give each of them one try to dislodge a ball that had gotten stuck in the fence. According to Flynn, Whiteway readied his cannon from 20 yards out. “Grant took one shot, fired it 90 miles per hour and knocked the ball out of the fence,” he said. “That’s how accurate he is.” Whiteway exploded in his junior season, besting his sophomore scoring mark by 72 as he tallied 169 points for the year, six higher than Quinzani’s state single-season record and just 25 shy of Mikey Powell’s national record. Not surprisingly, he was the Boston Globe’s Division 1 Player of the Year. Even before putting up those numbers and breaking all of Billerica’s scoring records, college coaches had Whiteway in their sights. UMass coach Greg Cannella caught a glimpse of his dynamite stick at the 2008 title game. Whiteway was familiar with UMass because his sister Jamie was a goalie there for two seasons until suffering an injury and, ultimately, transferring to Merrimack. Over a two-year courtship, Cannella successfully coaxed Whiteway away from the likes of Drexel, Hofstra and Merrimack and enticed him to follow in Connolly’s footsteps as a Minuteman. Whiteway still considers his game a work in progress, and that work has continued to pay off. His shot has improved since last year — though he used to hover around 90 mph, his dad says, Whiteway’s rocket now has an upper limit in the high 90s. He’s been scoring at a brisk pace this year, and is poised to join the 500-point club, though he’s unlikely to match Quinzani’s 577 career points. While Whiteway is in as good a position as he can be going into the next stage of his career, his success is by no means assured. At the highest levels of the college game, everything is faster, from the legs to the shots. The opposition is bigger and stronger, and they hit harder. Perhaps the greatest compliment a player can receive at such a turning point in his career is a comparison to someone who has taken that next step and excelled. For Whiteway, there’s no better comparison than Quinzani, the model Massachusetts lacrosse player whose single-season mark the high school senior already has bested. Quinzani went on to an All-American career at Duke, and is now a member of the Boston Cannons. “Comparing (Whiteway and Quinzani),” said Chris Sweet, who coached Quinzani for four years at Duxbury High, “I see Grant Whiteway making the transition, and becoming a great college player, I really do. I don’t see anything in his game that’s going to hold him back.” Braden Campbell can be reached at feedback@laxjournal.com

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About billericalacrosse

Billerica Lacrosse Coach
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