CHATHAM, NJ - It's been said that Chris Conlin has used his great vision on the basketball court and lacrosse field to become a defensive standout in both sports.
But as good as his vision is, even the Chatham senior didn't foresee how much playing both basketball and lacrosse would help him improve in each of the sports.
"I played lacrosse my whole life, but I was using basketball to help me stay in shape and get ready for the lacrosse season," Conlin said.
"Playing good defense means always having your head on a swivel and doing the little things, especially being in the right spot. It's not necessarily being an on-the-ball defender. It's off the ball and communicating is the biggest aspect of it. I learned that in basketball. Definitely playing basketball throughout high school helped me in lacrosse. The defense you played in one sport kind of dictated how you would play in the other sport."
Those defensive skills were on display last Saturday when Conlin helped Chatham shut down an undefeated and top-ranked Delbarton team, 8-6, for Chatham's first win over the Green Wave since April 10, 2012.
Chris Conlin is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"He's definitely a leader of the defense," Chatham senior goalie Ryan Ness said. "He's the glue that keeps the defense together. He has great stick skills. He's able to get his stick in the lanes and intercept a lot of good passes, especially in man-down and breaks. He was able to slow down (Delbarton's) transition game. He's very aggressive. He can play man-on-man and off-ball as well, especially with his stick skills."
Delbarton's high-powered offense, which averages more than 12 goals per game, was shut out completely in the first half. The Cougars moved to a 5-0 lead in the third quarter and held an 8-2 lead until Delbarton scored four goals in the final 3:35 of action.
"Chris plays with tremendous poise on the field," Chatham lacrosse coach Tony Calandra said. "He has great vision and stick skills as well as being one of the best defenders in the state of New Jersey. He is a leader on and off the field."
Conlin follows in the footsteps of some of the great lacrosse defenders that have come before him at Chatham, such as Daniel Winschuh, now a senior at Princeton University, and Kyle Kology, a freshman at the University of Virginia. The 6-2, 200-pound Conlin will continue to play lacrosse at Holy Cross.
Winschuh and Kology also played basketball, too, but Conlin has a few more titles on his resume. He was a starter on two Morris County Tournament Champion boys basketball teams and reached the NJSIAA Group 3 state final this year. Kology also won an MCT title in 2017.
Kology and Conlin, both members of Chatham's 2016 NJSIAA Group 2 state championship lacrosse team, have played a lot of lacrosse together and Conlin considered Kology a mentor when it came to defense and stick skills.
"I picked up my lacrosse IQ by watching him, learning when to slide and how to communicate," Conlin said of Kology. "I credit some of my stick skills to him. I watched him and kind of picked it up."
It's hard to qualify how much a defensive player can mean to a team, but Conlin has collected some tangible numbers that make him stand out. He's handled the long pole well enough to score three goals and pick up two assists, to go with 50 ground balls. He has also caused 20 turnovers.
In the all-important possession aspect of the game, Conlin comes up big there, too, as a wingman for Colin Hart on faceoffs.
"He certainly helps me on the faceoffs," Hart said. "He's getting 50 or 75 percent of the ground balls in those situations."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.