Features | 12/15/2011 4:32:30 PM | Chris Ryndak
| Luke Wiles (Photo: Google Images)|
For Luke Wiles, comfort is important and he thinks he’s entered into a great situation with the Buffalo Bandits.
After spending the last two seasons in the Pacific Northwest with the Washington Stealth, Wiles wanted to play closer to home, prompting a trade to the Buffalo Bandits in July. The Bandits gave up a third-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in 2012 to acquire the 29-year-old All-Star forward.
Wiles, a native of Orillia, Ont., spent one season in Toronto between a three-year stint in San Jose and a two-season spell in Washington. He said it was easy for his family to see him play in Toronto, but, obviously not so much when he was playing on the West Coast.
“It makes it really tough for my family to support me,” Wiles said. “They’ve got to be watching me on the Internet and it’s a very good thing I’m [now] in a big market that is very strong and one of the strongest in the league -- if not the strongest. I can’t say enough.”
Wiles has played in the NLL championship game the last two seasons with Washington, winning it all in 2010. The Bandits last won the Champion’s Cup in 2008 and Wiles is excited to be joining a team with that type of experience. He will also be playing with two of the most prolific scorers in NLL history in John Tavares, the league’s all-time leading scorer and Tracey Kelusky, who is 10th on the all-time goals list.
“As far as the offense goes, I think I’m going to be one of the catalysts. Kelusky and Tavares are two very effective lacrosse players,” Wiles said. “Tavares is a guy that will have the ball all the time, but three practices ago, I was saying to one guy, I only saw him take eight shots and he scored every one. That’s the efficiency John Tavares brings to the game. It’s incredible watching him.”
With Tavares entering his 21st season and Kelusky his 12th, Wiles explained that it’s going be up to him and some of the other younger players on the team to create scoring opportunities, especially late in games.
“Those guys are getting a little bit older. I think what I bring is my ability to attack the net and break down defenses, and to basically create shots for these guys and to tire out the defense for the fourth quarter, so that when we’re going in the fourth, I’m still going to the net hard and the defense is exhausted,” Wiles said. “…So, the younger guys are going to be the ones breaking down the defenses so that it makes it very easy for Tavares and Kelusky to score goals. When they shoot, they usually score.”
The Bandits are holding an open practice from 10 a.m.-Noon on Saturday at the First Niagara Center that will be followed by an hour-long autograph session featuring all practice participants at 12:30 p.m. in the 100 level concourse. Admission to the event and parking in the FNC ramp is free. After the weekend’s practice, the Bandits will have a few weeks off before their season opener at home against the Toronto Rock on Jan. 14.
“Every practice is a really a stepping stone to where we want to get to, so it does kind of stink that we do have a few weeks off before we get back at it for the season,” Wiles said. “…I think we just need to keep building as a squad and keep learning off of each other and keep growing together as a team.”
While Wiles is comfortable with his new living situation, he knows that, on the floor, getting back to the championship game won’t be easy and is going to take a lot of hard work.
“I’ve been to the finals the last two years in a row and in Washington, that wasn’t luck. We had a great structure of guys that loved each other and I believe that that’s what they had started here before I even got here,” Wiles explained.
“I just hope to add to that and hopefully push this team over the top and get us a championship in here. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many points you get or how many loose balls you get or what your stats are, it matters how many rings you wear on your finger and that’s what I care about.”