Andrew Helmer’s offensive improvement shows in shot clock era

September 16, 2020 0 Comments

first_imgAs if it were unexpected, Andrew Helmer charged up the field and drew little attention. The skills — the size, the speed, the stick-handling — were nothing new during Syracuse’s season-opening loss to Colgate. The 6-foot-1 long-stick midfielder rarely flashed them for much of his career. Offense or defense, he navigated mostly with his long pole in hand, sparingly using a short stick. Against the Raiders in 2019’s season-opener, to the surprise of maroon jerseys that sat and watched, Helmer reached back and found twine.“I’m pretty limited honestly,” Helmer said. “Usually I’m trying to get it to the extra man on the fast break. But, I mean, if someone gives me time and room, I’m more than willing to shoot.”While the effects of an 80-second shot clock have been largely minimal, SU head coach John Desko noted that the inception will lead to a faster pace of play before the season. A game which for years moved toward specialization now highlights midfielders who can play both sides of the ball. No. 8 Syracuse (5-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) has proven pieces for that mold. Junior short-stick defensive midfielder Peter Dearth showed versatility off a primarily offensive role in his first year and David Lipka has gone on scoring explosions. Helmer, in a consistent role with a goal and an assist so far this season, represents the evolution of SU’s system to feature its top athletes.“Guys are used to specializing at a young age and a lot of your short-stick defenders aren’t used to handling the ball,” Desko said. “If we can find guys like that, it’s a bonus.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJosh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerHelmer primarily served a defensive role with the long stick when he attended Summit (New Jersey) High School. He played close, one-on-one defense and shifted out to navigate the crease area. But Helmer showed something more, and became adept leading fast breaks — he scooped ground balls and took off. Jim Davidson, Helmer’s high school coach, talked with coaches about giving Helmer an opportunity with the short stick and possibly adding him to the man-up unit. But Helmer settled as a close defender and used the speed that made him “one of the fastest guys on the team” to create offensive opportunities.At Syracuse, the Orange saw an opportunity to take advantage of Helmer’s tools. By mid-April 2017, Helmer developed a reputation as a runner in the defensive midfield. The platoon of Helmer and Austin Fusco increased SU’s forced turnover numbers. Though SU’s defense has struggled against dodges from the top side, Fusco and Helmer have earned the Orange extra possessions.Starting in his sophomore year, Helmer’s contributions with a short stick were limited. He was injured and could only practice the last two days of the week. For games, he picked up the short stick and “tried to do my best.” Helmer appeared in 12 of Syracuse’s 15 games (the three he missed were due to injury) and split time between the short stick and the long pole.Coming into 2019, Helmer said he remained limited with the short stick and practiced with the rest of the defensive unit in pre-practice shooting lines and stick drills. Though he’s rarely shot in practice prior to this season, Dearth said SU’s “aggressive and up-tempo” style has forced players like Helmer and Spencer Small to work frequently with short sticks, so they’re “not completely clueless” when put in those situations in-game. “I’m definitely getting more comfortable with it,” Helmer said. “Being able to play out in transition and play both sides, I think that’s huge.”Susie Teuscher | Digital Design EditorEven on the defensive side, the short stick relies mainly on footwork and quickness, something Davidson said Helmer adapted to. He thrives through contact and utilizes his speed to stick with players and lead the break the other way. “He’s been becoming an unbelievable offensive midfielder,” Dearth said.Against Virginia, Syracuse mounted a comeback through mainly quick-trigger transition play off of faceoffs. Behind the goal, Helmer camped with the long stick he was used to playing with. When the ball found him, he passed it over the top to Bradley Voigt. In one of his best plays of the season, Helmer exemplified the offensive development he’s made, the result of a playing style Syracuse is taking advantage of.“It’s a progression,” Helmer said. “Getting better and better.” Comments Published on April 1, 2019 at 12:06 am Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcCleary Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more