Features | 1/28/2010 9:16:27 AM | Jackie Lewandowski
Steve Priolo was born to be an athlete.
The latest addition to the Bandits defense grew up with an innate athleticism that allowed him to pursue any sport he wanted.
Priolo was involved in numerous sports as a child. Finding himself on hockey, basketball and lacrosse teams, Priolo seemed to have a knack for just about every sport imaginable.
“Yeah I played a lot of sports throughout my life” Priolo said. “Growing up I was a hockey player for Junior B hockey and then ended up getting a basketball scholarship to Winsor, but I’ve always played lacrosse to stay in shape.”
It was not until recently that Priolo took his interest in lacrosse, a sport which he played leisurely as a kid, to new levels.
The 6-foot-5 defenseman spent his summer playing for the St. Catherine Athletics and registered 13 points (3+10) and 48 penalty minutes in just 21 games. He also earned an honorable mention at the annual Junior Player of the Year Awards for his strong defensive play.
“I’m just more of an intensity guy and will be there to protect my teammates in those rough-and-tough situations” he said. “My job is to be all-over the ball and help the defense in general.”
While his time in St. Catherines may have showcased his talents, Priolo also learned the importance of strong ties with teammates.
“There is no other team like that” Priolo said. “There is such brotherhood on that team, and it’s so emotional at the end of the year when you lose those guys. I may go back this summer just to stay in shape and reconnect.”
After just one season with the Athletics, Priolo was drafted by the Bandits as the team’s second round pick. The rookie defenseman was ranked 21st overall in the 2009 NLL Draft and has found professional lacrosse to be the best athletic challenge he has faced yet.
“The NLL is so different than junior lacrosse” Priolo said. “The only thing that prepares you is working with other players and getting in-shape.”
“Each game there will be a better adjustment to this pace. My first game was Junior A style and tentative, it was not the defense I wanted to be playing, and I am continuing to work on that.”
However, Priolo’s modesty should not fool anyone. In just four games with the Bandits, the rookie defenseman has registered five points (0+5), the first of which was in his first NLL career game.
“It’s just part of the game” Priolo said. “You don’t really notice that until someone tells you because you are just so caught up in the moment and the intensity of the game.”
In addition to the excitement of playing successfully in the NLL, Priolo also got the chance to play alongside some of his idols.
While attending Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in St. Catherines, ON, he developed an admiration for the defensive star of the St. Catherines Athletics and fellow Holy Cross graduate - Billy Dee Smith.
“Billy Dee has been a huge idol of mine growing up” Piolo said. “I watched him play Junior A in St. Catherines and watched him win the cup. Even to just meet him is awesome.”
Beyond the fanatic experience of meeting and playing with your idol, Billy Dee is also serving as the young defenseman’s mentor.
“He’s been a huge mentor of mine these past few weeks” Priolo said. “I’ve gotten to spend time with him playing squash, working out, and just constantly learning from him.”
Perhaps that is the reason that Priolo is becoming a strong force on what is becoming an integral Bandits defense. While the record may not show it, the defense of the rookies, including Priolo and Chris Corbeil, have kept games close.
While his game will grow throughout the season, his natural talent will not be wasted.