Denver Outlaws defenseman JT Giles-Harris

Denver’s JT Giles-Harris is shutting down everyone

By Topher Adams | Jul 3, 2024

Rob Pannell had scored or assisted on at least one goal in every game of his PLL career. He’d scored or assisted in every professional lacrosse game he played dating back to 2014. Then JT Giles-Harris happened.

Denver’s defensive ace held the Redwoods quarterback scoreless in the Outlaws’ 13-8 win over the California Redwoods last Saturday. Pannell shot 0-for-10 and turned the ball over three times. 

Giles-Harris only had one caused turnover and one ground ball on the stat sheet, but the 2022 Defensive Player of the Year anchored the Outlaws’ best defensive showing of the season.

California shooters were 0-for-15 when Giles-Harris was the primary defender. Most of the time he matched up with Pannell, but Giles-Harris also slid and recovered well to support the team’s defensive structure.

Pannell vs. Giles-Harris is the type of heavyweight matchup lacrosse fans love to watch every week. Even if Giles-Harris only had one official caused turnover, his excellent on-ball defense shut down Pannell.

Most of Giles-Harris’s best moments are so small they won’t show up on a highlight. But he can be so dominant in coverage that he wills himself into the highlight reel even if he’s not officially on the stat sheet.

This was not some newfound breakout for Giles-Harris. The fourth-year pro already has one Defensive Player of the Year award on his shelf, and he’s vying for another. Even through Denver’s defensive struggles to start the year, Giles-Harris was the stalwart.

In the team’s first two games of the season, opponents shot just 9.1% against Giles-Harris. When the Outlaws needed a big defensive stop, they wanted Giles-Harris defending the ball.

Nobody is a better cover defenseman. But what makes Giles-Harris special is the way he elevates the team. He can lock off a top option one-on-one and fight through picks to prevent switches. But he also slides to support at an elite level.

Denver’s defense is built around smart, veteran leaders. Giles-Harris, Jesse Bernhardt and Nick Grill all have college coaching experience. Mike Manley is one of the best and most experienced defensemen in pro lacrosse history. 

Giles-Harris fits into that environment and fills the space as needed to support a teammate.

There are many great close defensemen in the PLL. While Giles-Harris may not have the gaudy stats or the highlight-reel checks, the film doesn’t lie. He’s one of the best defenders in the world and the anchor of the Denver defense.