Chrome Lacrosse Club midfielder Sam Handley

Film Study: How does Chrome Unlock Sam Handley?

By Nick Zoroya | Jul 12, 2023

Being a first-round pick comes with expectations, especially when you’re 6'5" and have dominated at the collegiate level. Sam Handley is one of the most talented midfield prospects we’ve seen in years. His frame, shooting stroke, and feeding ability contributed to his selection as the fourth overall pick in the 2023 College Draft. Through four games he has just four points, not bad, but not what the lacrosse world was expecting. So what’s been keeping Handley from reaching his full potential?

Adjustment Period

In college Handley could basically bully any defender to get his hands free in a favorable area of the field.

The PLL poles are bigger, faster, smarter, and stronger than what he’s seen at Penn. When he does get his hands free, it's only for a split second. When he dodges a pole he pulls up and takes shots that are mediocre at best. Those shots probably went in during college, but against elite goalies they aren’t. Oftentimes his shots are altered by the long stick, and he’s not getting as much separation as he did at the college level.

He seemingly grows impatient and takes low percentage shots with time left on the shot clock. In short, he’s settling.

Keys to Handley’s Success

There are two main strategies that the Chrome need to employ to help Handley: Matchups and Locations.

Get him a short-stick matchup

Handley’s three goals, along with most of his quality looks, have come against a SSDM.

So how does Chrome put him in a position to succeed?

When teams put an LSM on Handley, Chrome need to run the two-man game and get the coveted big-little switch. He’s proven that he can score against short-sticks (3-for-8 on unassisted dodges against SSDM).

Another way to get him his matchup is coming out of the box in transition. Defenses often struggle to get the exact matchup they want during transition, Handley needs to get the ball coming out of the box and go full attack mode when he has the shorty. 

Get him into successful locations

Handley doesn't need to be near the net to be successful, he’s got crazy range and power. Allow him to initiate from the high wing where he can either split his defender or sweep. This allows him to make his first move near the arc. The first move is for positioning, his second move gets his hands free.

At the pro level some lessons are learned the hard way. Handley is just four weeks in and it seems like things are starting to click. During a sideline interview with Dana Boyle, Handley acknowledged one of the differences between the college and pro game:

“They don’t like to slide that much, I was used to getting 10 slides in college so this is a little bit different”

Handley’s been effective in getting shots off, especially when teams don’t slide. Once he starts dominating the matchups and scoring more consistently, defenses will be forced to slide which will open up his passing ability and unlock the rest of the Chrome offense.

At the end of the day, he needs to be a little more selfish. As a rookie I’m sure he’s trying to find his place on the team, but the Chrome need a big body initiator, a party starter, and to be that he needs to demand the ball, demand a pick, and be confident that he’s the same guy that he showed the world he was in college. 

Get him a shorty and some space and let him cook, the rest will take care of itself.

Tune in and cheer on the Chrome LC as they take the field Saturday at 6pm on ESPN+ from Connecticut.