Sept. 18, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State men’s lacrosse program enjoyed a historic night on Monday at the National Lacrosse League Draft in Toronto, as three Buckeyes were selected with the first six picks and four went overall. It marked the first time in league history that one school produced three top-six picks. The selections — Jake Withers at No. 2 overall, Austin Shanks at No. 5 and Eric Fannell at No. 6 — all were taken by the same team: the Rochester Knighthawks. Johnny Pearson rounded out the Scarlet and Gray representation when he was the eighth pick of the second round by the Saskatchewan Rush.
The three first-round selections brings Ohio State’s total over the last 10 years to eight, which is tied for the most of any program nationally. Overall, the Buckeyes have produced nine first-round NLL selections in program history. They also have the distinctions of having players taken No. 1 overall (Logan Schuss), No. 2 (Withers), No. 3 (Jesse King), No. 5 (Shanks) and No. 6 (Fannell). The four overall selections ties a program record (Ohio State also had four picks in in 2008).
Withers was the first off the board, going to Rochester with the second overall pick. A team captain from Peterborough, Ontario, Withers was a USILA Second Team All-American as a faceoff specialist, and fourth in the NCAA in faceoff winning percentage in 2017 (.647) and ranked seventh with 7.57 groundballs per game, leading the Big Ten in both categories. The Big Ten Specialist of the Year for a second straight year and a two-time First Team All-Big Ten choice, Withers won 267-of-406 groundballs on the year as the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Championship Game. He ends his career as the team’s leader in groundballs (344) and faceoff wins (606) and had a .598 career faceoff winning percentage, the best since at least 2000, while playing in 63 games for the Scarlet and Gray. Withers recently completed his first season in the MLL with the Atlanta Blaze and last Friday won the Mann Cup with the Century 21 Lakers.
Shanks, from Whitby, Ontario, continued Rochester’s run on Buckeyes at No. 5 overall. He notched 123 points on 83 goals and 40 assists over his 60-game collegiate career and was a key member of the Buckeyes’ man-up unit, scoring nine times. That mark tied Mario Ventiquattro (2010) for the most by a Buckeye since at least 2001. In the NCAA Tournament, Shanks played some of his best lacrosse, scoring five times in four games with a two-goal effort in the NCAA Semifinals vs. Towson.
The third Buckeye headed to Rochester was Fannell, a USILA Honorable Mention All-American and First Team All-Big Ten pick. Last season, Fannell has a Buckeye-best 30 assists and 66 points, ranking second with 36 goals. He had a goal in 17 of 20 games played with a point in 18 of 20 outings, including 15 multiple point performances. A two-time USILA Offensive Player of the Week, Fannell finished the season with 33 points in his last nine games combined. Fannell completed his first summer in Major League Lacrosse as a member of the Rochester Rattlers.
Pearson saw action in all 21 games last year for the Buckeyes with a career-high 26 goals, seven assists and 33 points. A starter in 20 contests, he registered at least one point in 15 of 21 games with seven man-up goals to tie for sixth in the NCAA and eight multiple-goal outings. He scored twice — including the game-winner in overtime — against Maryland on April 22. He finished his career with 48 goals, 10 assists and 58 points in 44 games. Last May, Pearson was selected in the sixth round by the Ohio Machine of Major League Lacrosse.