Stephen Rehfuss didn’t get recruited by Syracuse. Now he’s SU’s offensive facilitator.

first_imgStephen Rehfuss’ phone lit up with a 315 area code in January 2015, during Christmas break of his freshman year. Holy Cross had just granted Rehfuss his release and he was having lunch with his mom, Claire, who was reading the newspaper. Rehfuss looked up at her.“I don’t know what this number is,” Claire remembered him saying.Rehfuss put the phone back down.But the phone kept buzzing and Claire told him to answer it. Syracuse assistant coach Lelan Rogers was on the other side. Rogers had received Rehfuss’ tape from his high school coach and wanted Rehfuss to tour Syracuse the following day. The call surprised the Rehfuss family, nearly knocking them off their chairs, Claire said.Rehfuss and both his parents took the more than two hour drive from Latham, New York, to Syracuse and met Rogers and SU head coach John Desko. They wanted Rehfuss to start as soon as possible. He committed that day. After receiving just one Division I scholarship offer in high school, Rehfuss was joining the second winningest program in college lacrosse.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNearly two years since, Rehfuss is the main facilitator of No. 12 Syracuse’s (7-5, 4-0 Atlantic Coast) offense, which will be the top seed in the ACC tournament for the second consecutive season when it takes on Virginia on Friday. For the Orange to avoid an early exit from the tournament yet again, it will rely on Rehfuss, who leads the team with 40 points and 23 assists, to run the offense at X.“He was a leading scorer in his area so we started looking at those kind of stats,” Desko said. “…Talking to people, coach Rogers made some calls out that way and a lot of people felt he was a really good prospect.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorFour years before his visit to Syracuse, Rehfuss made the Shaker (New York) High School varsity team as a freshman. He had the talent and could beat defenders with his speed, Shaker head coach Shawn Hennessey said, but he was 5-foot and just north of 100 pounds.Steve, his father, was 6-foot-4, and knew Rehfuss would hit a growth spurt. It was just a matter of when. Rehfuss had the talent and dominated his freshman year of high school, but colleges paid little attention to him. College recruiting used to start in eighth or ninth grade, and most colleges focused on recruiting big, strong, fast athletes rather than skilled, undersized players like Rehfuss, Hennessey said.It got to the point where one summer during his underclass years, his family decided it wasn’t worth sending Rehfuss to a recruiting tournament.“We were like well, they’re just going to check his name off because he’s a small kid,” she said.Rehfuss led Shaker in points his sophomore season. He picked up club lacrosse to gain exposure and grew a few inches, but his weight still hovered in the low 100s.The following year he picked up colleges’ interest, most notably from Penn. There, he met Judd Lattimore, an assistant coach at the time. Lattimore was then hired as the head coach of Holy Cross, and he kept in contact with Rehfuss, eventually offering him a spot on the roster.Rehfuss finished his career at Shaker with 319 total points — 99 more than the next-best player. He still holds the record in points, assists and most goals in a game. He left a legacy at Shaker. To this day, players are still afraid to wear his No. 5 jersey, Hennessey said, something he believes won’t change for years.“He truly, honestly brought our program, with his play, to the next level,” Hennessey said. “and now what he’s doing in college, he’s even brought it even further. He’s really done an amazing thing for us.”When Rehfuss arrived at Holy Cross, though, he disliked playing under Lattimore. The intense coaching methods did not align with what Rehfuss wanted from a school, Claire said. He wanted to play lacrosse elsewhere and thought it’d be better to transfer.During an October break, Rehfuss and his dad sat down to talk about the possibility of transferring. Steve told his son there might never be a chance to play lacrosse again if he transferred. He didn’t get looks before college, and schools like Syracuse were a stretch for a first-year transfer.“They’re recruiting ninth graders, not freshman in colleges,” Steve remembered saying to his son. “He said, ‘I’m willing to take the risk … To his credit, Stephen believed in himself, refused to take no for an answer and got his release.”Courtesy of Steve RehfussThat release came after a near three-hour conversation with Lattimore, who wanted Rehfuss to stay. But Rehfuss wanted out.This past season, Lattimore was placed on administrative leave from Holy Cross after both players and parents expressed concerns about him on several occasions, Inside Lacrosse reported.When Rehfuss returned home, he met with Hennessey and the two sent out film to colleges, hoping for a call back. It was the same cycle the coach and player went through when Rehfuss desperately searched for a home in high school.“We knew a little bit about (Rehfuss) because he had gone to Holy Cross,” then-Brown and now-UVA head coach Lars Tiffany said. “… But to our mistake, we didn’t pursue him hard enough.”Then, Syracuse finally called. The coaches gave Rehfuss a full tour of the campus and where he’d live if he came to SU and even showed him a team practice. While at SU, Rehfuss turned to his mom once more. She was expecting him to comment on the quality of players and be worried. But he told her the opposite –– that he could keep up with the team.Rehfuss returned to Holy Cross to take classes that spring and officially transferred to SU in fall 2016 as a redshirt freshman. Before leaving for Syracuse, Steve pulled his son aside. They talked about the upcoming season, how Rehfuss was starting far down the depth chart. Steve told Rehfuss that making the travel squad in his first year would be a real plus.“And of course he didn’t listen to me,” Steve said, “because he never settles.”Josh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerThe season opener, Rehfuss stood on the sideline in full uniform as Syracuse hosted Siena in the Carrier Dome. As SU took a commanding lead, he entered the game, scoring a hat trick less than five minutes after notching his first collegiate goal.A year later, Rehfuss notched a hat trick again in the season opener as a starter against Binghamton. He did what he does best: facilitated the offense from the X, dishing out two assists. It was something he picked up because all his favorite lacrosse players were feeders and he always loved point guards in basketball that were great passers. He earned a spot on the starting attack just two years after not knowing if he’d ever play college lacrosse again.Rehfuss has started every game since for the Orange, scoring a goal and adding an assist in every game but SU’s 15-3 loss to Albany. He ranks first on the team in points and assists, third in goals and has the second-best shot percentage on the team of those who’ve taken double-digit shots.Rehfuss averages nearly two assists per game, and is just one shy of doubling the next-best player in assists, Nate Solomon. This past week against Navy, Rehfuss assisted on six different goals for the Orange and scored a goal in the process, contributing on seven of the Orange’s 12 goals.Rehfuss has taken an improbable path to success at Syracuse. He wasn’t recruited because of his size and received just one Division I offer. He wasn’t looked at despite growing a foot and asking for his release from Holy Cross. And he wasn’t supposed to end up at Syracuse.But in that first week of January, Rogers wanted him. And now, Rehfuss has grown into a star for the Orange.“Getting that call was the best call of my life,” Rehfuss said. “… I was told so many times I wasn’t good enough or too small to play at the next level. I was told I’d be better suited to play Division III.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 25, 2018 at 11:30 pm Contact Charlie: csdistur@syr.edu | @charliedisturcolast_img

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