Towson men’s lacrosse senior attackman James Avanzato recently chatted with PressBox about why he chose the Tigers as a transfer, his favorite thing about Towson University and more. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Avanzato posted 18 goals and 22 assists in 2021.
PressBox: How did you become interested in lacrosse?
James Avanzato: I think just when I was younger, my parents had us involved in a lot of sports, from soccer to basketball. Lacrosse was just another thing that they had me along with my four other siblings involved in. I fell in love with the game and I enjoyed playing it, and I continued to play it throughout my entire life.
PB: Who was the biggest influence on your game growing up?
JA: I’d go with my dad, [Jim], as my biggest influence, just in terms of not just lacrosse but as an athlete. He always exemplified how to work hard and how to be tenacious and having a certain grit to me. But in terms of a lacrosse player, I’d have to go with probably Paul Rabil just because growing up I liked Johns Hopkins, so Paul Rabil probably early on.
PB: Was it competitive growing up around other lacrosse players in your family? How did you and your siblings push one another?
JA: I think that being from a bigger family, everyone always wanted to be able to have the center of attention at the dinner table. Everyone wanted to be able to say what they accomplished in terms of athletics. It was kind of an unsaid little thing in our family. Everyone was super competitive with each other just because we wanted to be better than each other and just keep pushing each other without even knowing that we were doing it. We were just being competitive. Our parents did a great job in instilling that in us. They always pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves as people and as athletes, so it’s definitely a huge credit to my parents just because they definitely showed us the way to conduct ourselves.
PB: You initially chose to go to Maryland and then you transferred to Towson. Why did you choose Towson?
JA: I chose Towson just because when I went on my visit with [head coach Shawn Nadelen] and the more I began to talk to Coach Nadelen, he was never telling me that I would be able to come in and play right away. He was telling me that I would be able to come in and compete and be able to be competitive in getting a job, so he didn’t hand anything to me. The way he talked and the way that he always has a fire to him, it really made me want to come here. And also … Towson lost to Maryland, [14-13, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2019]. If I would ever get that chance to come back and play in an NCAA Tournament game, I’d want to do it here at Towson.
PB: What is you favorite memory so far at Towson?
JA: I would say my favorite memory was the St. Joseph’s game last year, just because it was after an 0-6 season [in 2020, which] got cut short [due to] COVID, and then we opened up  against Virginia and things didn’t go our way. We came back home to Johnny U, played St. Joseph’s and won in overtime and Andrew Milani scored the game-winner. That was just good because it felt like, “This is why I came here. I came here to win games and I came here to compete for CAA championships.” After that game, it was kind of like a little bit of a relief, but it was just a great moment just because I was overcome with a lot of emotions.
PB: What’s your favorite thing about Towson University?
JA: I think the best thing about Towson has got to be the guys on the team. We’re all such a tight-knit group. The guys who live off-campus, we all live relatively close to each other. There’s never a day where you’re by yourself in your house because the guys on the team won’t let you. You always want to be around the guys. We all make sure that we’re hanging out together. We’re together for practice for X amount of hours, but it doesn’t end there. The brotherhood that we have just continues off the field. It grows stronger just because we all enjoy being with each other and we all want to be with each other, and that’s the great thing about this team and about this school — we have that ability to continue to grow our friendships that are going to last longer than just our four years here. It’s going to continue to grow. I’ve made friends here that I know will be lifetime friends.
PB: Who is your best friend on the team and what’s a story that underscores your friendship?
JA: I’m going to go with my roommate Drew Martin. Drew was a transfer as well. He came in from Air Force. We came in at the same time. We lived in the same house together. He’s just always a happy kid. He’s never in a bad mood. He’s goofy, he’s funny. He’s a happy-going kid. You need a lift, you hang out around Drew Martin, either if it’s him doing something that he doesn’t even realize he’s doing — he can get a whole group laughing — or if he’s actually just trying to be funny. He’s genuinely just a funny person. We’ve been there for each other just because we’ve been going through everything with transferring in. We’ve gone through a lot together. There are so many guys on this team that I’m super close with and I value everyone’s friendship.
PB: Who was a player you looked up to when you got to Maryland or Towson?
JA: When I first got to Maryland, I definitely looked up to Connor Kelly just because I was a freshman and he was a senior. They had just come off a national championship. Connor Kelly and Tim Rotanz were the two guys that I looked up to just because they accomplished a lot the season before. I definitely wanted to be able to learn from them and just be able to follow in their footsteps a little bit just because they’ve been successful at the highest level, so coming in definitely Connor Kelly and Tim Rotanz.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
JA: I think that the best thing for young kids is just to continue to play multiple sports. Don’t be so focused on just playing one sport just because lacrosse is a variety of different sports combined into one. I played basketball in high school. Basketball translates great to lacrosse — picks and spacing on the floor. I played soccer in high school, [and] lacrosse is a lot of running. Being able to play multiple sports at a young age [is a positive] because when you get to the next level, all we do is play lacrosse. … I was very thankful that growing up my parents had me in so many different sports. In high school I played four sports and it really helped me develop as an athlete and it all translated to lacrosse. It made me a better lacrosse player because I played so many different sports.
PB: What are your goals for after lacrosse?
JA: After lacrosse, I’d like to get a job working in finance. This past summer, I interned at Kelly Benefits right outside Towson, so I’d like to get a job working in finance. If there could be any way I could give back to the game of lacrosse — if it means Towson, if it means at my local high school — I would love to be able just to share the knowledge that I’ve learned going through my entire process with as many young kids as I can. Throughout the way, there’s been mistakes that maybe I’ve made or mistakes I’ve seen people make, and just try to guide people to be able to show them the direction that they should be heading in and help them as much as I can.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Towson Athletics
Originally published Feb. 16, 2022