Dom Starsia’s college roommate from Brown is a Native American, a member of the Mohawk tribe. Over the years, he's turned into one of Starsia’s closest friends.
Starting today, Starsia will be coaching a member of the Seneca tribe – and he hopes the relationship can be just as prosperous.
Freshman Zed Williams, one of the top lacrosse recruits in the country, is scheduled to arrive as part of UVa’s summer transition program.
For Williams, that transition figures to be a little more challenging than most.
Williams has lived his whole life on the Cattaraugus Reservation – a part of the Iroquois confederacy that is located just south of Buffalo, N.Y. He attended nearby Silver Creek High School, which had just 65 graduating seniors last year.
“I hope this is such a fascinating exercise for everybody,” said Starsia on Monday, when asked about Williams’ arrival. “Culturally, for a young man coming off the reservation to come to the University of Virginia – I think he’s got a lot to offer.”
Especially on the lacrosse field.
Williams, who also starred in football and basketball at Silver Creek, shattered the all-time New York high school record for career points, notching 175 more than previous record-holder Casey Powell.
A member of his varsity team since the eighth grade, Williams finished with a whopping 444 goals and 284 assists (which is presumed to be a national record).
“This kid has the most potential to excel at the college level as any high school player I’ve seen,” said Casey Vock of Inside Lacrosse. “He’s athletic. He has tremendous stick skills. He is a ferocious competitor.
“Best of all, he’s a humble human being. He’s a great kid.”
Starsia is doing his best not to put too much pressure on Williams, a midfielder.
“It will be an adjustment for him,” he said. “He may not light it up right off the bat the first time he steps on the field because he’s never done anything quite like this.
“But I think he’s a terrific player. He sees the game at a high level. He’s a really neat guy who I think will be really fun to play with. I think it will be fascinating to watch him as he acclimates himself.”
In his final high school game, Williams won 20 of 22 faceoffs – an area that was a problem for UVa last season.
“He never comes off the field,” Starsia said. “He plays man up and man down. He can run all day.”
Vock believes Williams can be a “transcendent” player at the college level.
“If he can get into the flow of things and into the rhythm of college life,” Vock said, “he’s going to have a very, very memorable college career.”
The orientation program that Williams and fellow freshmen Joe French and Ryan Lukacovic will be taking part in sets them up for the summer school session that begins next week.
“It’s one of the really good things that the NCAA does,” Starsia said. “It allows the institutions to provide summer school for the incoming students, which does a great deal to help ensure that they get off to a good start academically.”
The players will take two classes each and also get adjusted to the overall life of a college student-athlete.
“It’s a huge help,” Starsia said.
Williams, who comes from an extremely tight-knit family – he has several brothers who also play lacrosse – has been on Starsia’s radar since junior high.
Starsia describes Williams as “quiet” and as a “sweet kid.”
In a way, everything has come full circle for Starsia since his days at Brown.
“One of the things that attracted me to lacrosse was the Native American roots to the game,” Starsia said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the sport and the roots of it all.”
Starsia confirmed that Virginia will play at Richmond in the Spiders’ first-ever Division I lacrosse game. He said Loyola has also been added to the 2014 schedule and that UVa will probably drop Ohio State in order to add ACC newcomer Notre Dame. “The schedules will change a great deal this year and next year as this conference stuff gets sorted out,” Starsia said. “The next piece of this will be, ‘What do we do with Maryland?’ That hasn’t quite been decided.”... ACC Freshman of the Year Tanner Scales recently underwent an undisclosed surgery. Starsia said it was too early to say whether the defender would have to be held out at all in the fall.