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CMA’s McEnery staying south to play lacrosse at Coker College

Posted: May 9, 2016 3:44 p.m.
Updated: May 10, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Photo provided by CMA/

CAMDEN MILITARY ACADEMY’S Shane McEnery is joined by his father, John McEnery, as he signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and lacrosse-playing pursuits at Coker College. Looking on from behind, from left, are CMA head lacrosse coach Captain C.J. Willox, CMA Dean of Students, John Heflin, 1st Sgt. Lewis Collins of CMA and CMA assistant lacrosse coach Captain Russell Rowe.

When you think of  the hotbeds of lacrosse in the United States, the two regions of the country which usually pop up first in your mind are the areas in and around Baltimore as well as Long Island in New York.

When you think of San Jose, California, you sometimes picture houses with Spanish-style orange tiles for roofs or, possibly the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League.

But to call the largest city in northern California the cradle of lacrosse would not be giving San Jose its proper due.

While lacrosse is more closely associated with being played along the east coast, it did not stop Shane McEnery from trading in his basketball sneakers for a pair of cleats, helmet and a lacrosse stick. Last week, that move paid off for the San Jose native as the Camden Military Academy senior signed a National Lacrosse Letter of Intent with Coker College.

McEnery did not randomly pick up the sport. His start and his early training were provided to him from his father, John McEnery, who played collegiate lacrosse in California.

“My dad played in college at Santa Clara and I picked it up during my freshman of high school,” said McEnery, who is completing his second year at CMA. “I used to play basketball before that and I stopped playing basketball … I didn’t like it as much. I picked lacrosse up and just fell in love with it. I picked it up pretty easily and started to get good at it so, I continued with it.”

The switch from the hardwood to the lacrosse field paid off handsomely for C.J. Willox. In McEnery, the CMA head lacrosse coach found a versatile player who could play any position on the field with the Spartans not seeing a drop off in productivity in all cases. While McEnery’s regular position with the Spartans is attacker, he can also play other positions, as needed.

“In terms of knowledge and lacrosse skills, it’s going to be a huge void to fill,” Willox said of McEnery’s impending departure. “Shane is a threat at all times. He tries to get everybody involved but at the same time, I believe that he could, at any moment, put the team on his back. When I have called on him to do that, he certainly comes through.

“Skill-wise, we’re definitely going to miss him because he had the ability to play every position; attack, midfield and even defense. Anytime I told him that I wanted him to play a different position, he would say, ‘Yes, coach.’ Then, he went out there and played it superbly.”

For McEnery, the hardest part in learning to play lacrosse came in being able to work with the stick and the skill involved in running with the ball, keeping it in the basket and looking for an open teammate to pass the ball to or, to send a shot on net when the opportunity presented itself to him.

“I picked it up pretty quick. Once I learned how to use the stick pretty well, it all kind of came naturally,” he said of his beginnings in the sport. “The toughest part was catching and throwing with the stick. Once I got used to that, it was kind of like any other sport with running and playing defense.”

For a young man who lived his entire life in the relatively mild climate of northern California, McEnery smiled when asked how he has adapted to the muggy conditions in South Carolina.

“The humidity was kind of a problem … and getting sweaty,” he said. “But it doesn’t affect me much out there. It’s just something that I have to get past.”

McEnery’s signing with the Hartsville program and his decision to continue his education in the Palmetto State rather than returning home for college, came after a whirlwind recruitment by Cobras’ head coach David Olliver. The go-between for the eventual deal was CMA Dean of Students, John Heflin.

 “It kind of came at me pretty quick,” McEnery said of Coker jumping into the recruiting picture.  “John Heflin introduced me to the coach from Coker one day and I took a tour of the school and fell in love with the campus. I met some of the guys and the coach is a good guy. It all fell together after that.”

McEnery hopes to continue being an attacker at Coker but did not rule out being used elsewhere on the field. “I play attack here and I plan on playing attack at Coker but I can switch it up to play at midfield, depending on the depth of the team,” he said.

Willox said McEnery’s will to succeed and his demeanor is exactly what a college head coach is looking for in an incoming freshman.

“I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to adapt quickly to the college game,” Willox said. “He’s intelligent and receptive. He’s not going to go into a program naïve. He knows what he’s getting into and he knows that he is going to have to earn his stripes. I believe that the military program here at the school teaches guys to do that and how to follow before they lead.

“I believe he is going to play a huge part in their program but I don’t think he’s going to go in there with any freshman jitters. I believe that he is going to go in there and contribute. He’s going to be a very coachable freshman.”

While some freshmen shrink when being the new kid on the block in college, McEnery said he will embrace the challenge and use his first days with the program to learn about what it takes to be successful at the college level.

“It will definitely be different,” he said of going from an experienced player back to a newcomer with the Coker program, “but I did that my first two years of high school; it will be nice getting back to that where people have the same or, better skill level than I do.”

And, McEnery expects things to be different on the college lacrosse field. The game itself will change and he said he must be ready for the challenges ahead.

“The biggest change will be the competition itself along with the size of the players,” he said of the transition to the college game.

“Right now, I’m playing with freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Next year, I will be playing with juniors and seniors in college who are going to be a lot bigger, faster and stronger. The competition there is going to be a lot better, too. Starting next year, I’ll be playing at a whole other level and the skill set will be better, too.”

Count Willox among the group who think Shane McEnery will make a seamless transition to college life and playing lacrosse at Coker. In the same breath, though, Willox said he is saddened at losing an integral part of his Spartan program.

 “Shane is definitely one player in the program who leads by example, all-around, with his style of play and the way he carries himself,” Willox said. “He’s definitely the most charismatic guy on the team and it’s a shame that we can’t have more guys like that because, I believe, he conducts himself in the way that any coach would want his coach to conduct his players on the field. He is very humble, which is a rare thing for this game. He never tries to speak down to anybody. He’s is a guy who is mature beyond his years.”

 “He’s definitely going to be missed next year, that’s for sure. We’re going to have to get some guys to continue his legacy with the way that Shane leads both on and off the field. “

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