Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse graduate attackman Connor DeSimone recently talked with PressBox about the influence his father had on his game, why he chose to come back for a fifth year at Hopkins and more. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound DeSimone earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2021 by posting 25 goals and 20 assists.
PressBox: How did you become interested in lacrosse?
Connor DeSimone: It’s actually a funny story. My father, [Joe], founded Lacrosse Unlimited back when he was like 22 years old in 1990. Lacrosse has just always been in our family. My brothers played, my dad played when he was in college, so I didn’t really have a choice. I never played baseball growing up. It was lacrosse and basketball for pretty much my entire life, so it’s a pretty unique story that way.
PB: How did your father influence your game?
CD: He coached the Long Island Lizards for a few years, so I grew up with players like Dan Denihan, Brian Carcaterra, Terry Reirden [who] he actually coached. Casey Powell actually lived in my house for a few years while he was playing on the team. I had an awesome experience kind of getting to know a lot of those professional players that I looked up to and wanted to model my game after. Obviously my dad’s been a huge influence and kind of surrounded me with the best players to ensure that I could be the best version of myself.
PB: What was it like growing up with siblings who also played? How did that push you as a competitor?
CD: It was a crazy environment. When we were younger, we used to clear out the living room and put two mini lacrosse nets up. My three brothers and I would kind of get after it a little bit — rough each other up, push each other around into the boards. My older brother, [Ryan], was the same way, where his friend group used to play very competitively in the basement, play mini-lacrosse, so just really having a stick in their hand. I’m six years younger than my older brother, so they would always take me with them whenever they were playing pickup lacrosse and I just got that opportunity to kind of push myself against older guys. My older brother was a huge influence on me and obviously pushed me to be the person that I am and player that I am today.
PB: Why did you choose to come to Johns Hopkins?
CD: I chose to come to Hopkins just because of the rich lacrosse culture here and obviously how prestigious a university it is. It’s one of the best in the world, but lacrosse is obviously very important to me and very important to my family. Growing up I wanted to go somewhere where they valued lacrosse as much as I did. After touring a bunch of schools, it seemed like my values and Johns Hopkins’ and the coaching staff’s aligned at the time, so that really helped me make my final decision — the parallels between my values and the university.
PB: What is your favorite memory so far at Hopkins?
CD: Favorite memory, I would say, is probably winning the Big Ten championship my freshman year [in 2018] with that group — Shack [Stanwick] and Joel [Tinney] and Brinton Valis and some great leaders on the team. We had an awesome experience. We went to the [NCAA] quarterfinals, unfortunately lost to Duke. But winning that Big Ten championship against Maryland was an all-time feeling so far.
PB: You moved from midfield to attack in 2021. What went into that switch for you and how did that change your game?
CD: Just based on the system and the offense, [head coach Peter Milliman and assistant coach John Grant Jr.] thought it would be best, that my skill set kind of benefited the attack unit and having more touches. It was an awesome transition. Coach John Grant is one of the best in the game, if not the best attackman to ever play. He’s made the transition very smooth and has really helped me and helped my player development. Coach Junior’s just awesome to talk to. He’s the ultimate player’s coach where he takes you to the side, tells you what you need to work on. It’s more of a conversation rather than him yelling or reprimanding you for something that you did wrong. He’s the best and has really helped take my game to the next level.
PB: Why did you choose to come back for a fifth year?
CD: I just thought that this group has something really special here. I definitely wanted to come back, get my master’s at this university, and I think more importantly the guys and the relationships that I’ve built with these guys over the last four years [made it] kind of a no-brainer. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else [to play]. I love lacrosse and I love these guys and I just want to give it one more go.
PB: What is your favorite thing about Baltimore?
CD: I would say the Ravens games on Sunday. M&T’s really close to Hopkins. I know a lot of the guys who go down and watch a bunch of Ravens games or the Orioles games in the spring. They’re a very unique environment. … I think it’s an awesome experience. It’s a great team-bonding experience for the guys.
PB: Who is your best friend on the team and what’s a story that underscores your friendship?
CD: My best friend on the team I would say is Jack Keogh. I grew up with him. I played club lacrosse with him in high school. Our families have always been good friends. I’ve lived with him since freshman year. He’s been through it all with me — the ups, the downs, all the goofy stuff in between. When I was younger back when I was a freshman, I used to have night terrors. It’s extreme nightmares, you’d wake up screaming, panicking in a sweat. Keogh was always there for me, kind of embracing the night terror, making jokes out of it, kind of calming me down and putting me back to bed when things got tough. He’s a great friend, one of the best. He’s always been there for me and he’s got my back and I’ve got his through thick and thin.
PB: Who was a player you looked up to when you got to Hopkins?
CD: I would say Shack Stanwick and Joel Tinney [were] two mentors of mine. Joel’s competitive drive was just invaluable and one of the best in the game. Shack just as a person and a player and a teammate was one of the best I’ve ever been around, so obviously as a person I try to model myself after them. They were just the best captains and best teammates I’ve had.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
CD: I would just say watch as much lacrosse as you can. I feel like growing up that’s what made our generation so successful is that we have the ability to watch so many great players growing up. Being able to replicate your game after something that you’ve watched has been really helpful to a lot of the guys on the team, myself included. So I think just watching as much lacrosse as you can and try to always have a stick in your hand, whether it’s fiddling in the backyard with a mini-stick, hitting the wall, practicing. Every second, don’t take it for granted.
PB: What are your goals for after lacrosse?
CD: Ideally I’d like to go back to New York, work in commercial real estate. I interned [at CBRE in Arlington, Va.] last summer. The alumni at Hopkins have been great in kind of helping me and influencing me and guiding me to see what direction I want to go, but hopefully go back to New York closer to family and work in commercial real estate.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics
Originally published Feb. 16, 2022