Philadelphia Waterdogs draft pick Kenny Brower

How Waterdogs draftee Kenny Brower locks down every team’s top attackman

By Wyatt Miller | May 24, 2024

Philadelphia Waterdogs head coach and general manager Bill Tierney faced a dilemma with his first-ever draft pick. Yale attackman Matt Brandau was higher on their big board, but Duke defenseman Kenny Brower filled the bigger need for depth at close defense. 

As he’d indicated before the draft, Tierney would go with the best player available, so he took Brandau at No. 7 overall. Little did he know, that wasn’t a choice between the two at all. Only one close defenseman was taken between the Dogs’ first- and second-round pick, and it wasn’t Brower. So, he got both of his first-round targets with only one first-round pick.

Brower’s movements are forceful and never without purpose, putting constant pressure on the ball-carrier. His strategic checks and fantastic fundamentals have flustered the nation’s top scorers for years. In his first professional season, Brower will be the only left-handed defender on the Waterdogs’ close defense, so the No. 15 overall pick will certainly have an impact, even in a crowded unit.

“When an attackman has to go against a lefty, it brings out a different tact for them because most defensemen are righties,” Tierney said. “He’s strong, he’s powerful, he’s physical, which in this league is something you cannot overlook. … We’ll see how quickly he can get up to speed with this league.”

Brower’s quickness and body control at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds are extremely rare. Plus, he’s as dependable as they come, starting all 80 games the Blue Devils have played since he stepped on campus in 2020. As the second-ranked recruit in the class of 2019, his expectations were almost as high as his teammate Brennan O’Neill's, and the two only grew from clashing at practice. 

“Iron sharpens iron,” O’Neill said. “Being able to go against a player of his caliber helps you for going against anyone else in the country, and you see it on the field every week.”

Brower uses calculated physicality to make elite attackmen look like third-string middies.

Seventy-three caused turnovers over Brower’s four-and-a-half-year career is good for fourth in program history. He achieved that while drawing the top attackman for the Blue Devils since his sophomore season, and he’s a two-time Tewaaraton Award nominee. 

This past season, Brower held No. 2 overall pick Connor Shellenberger to one goal on six shots, causing four turnovers in a huge conference win over Virginia. That game was the litmus test of his readiness for the PLL, and he passed with flying colors. 

He never let Shellenberger get a step above goal line extended, and he picked the UVA star’s pocket multiple times. Brower knew the indicators for Shellenberger’s shots and passes, and his constant slap checks landed at the right times. Initiating contact as a defender can be a double-edged sword, but Brower came out on top in this matchup more often than not. 

Here’s a video of Brower taking on Maryland Whipsnakes third-round pick TJ Malone in last year’s NCAA Tournament. He ended that game with three caused turnovers, and Duke came out victorious. 

Malone changes direction with a roll, but Brower keeps pace with large shuffle steps. These are a staple of his game, as he can keep pace with power and speed using a wide base. When Malone rolled back a second time, Brower was ready for it. He threw a beautiful wrap check that put the ball on the ground, and Duke gained possession. 

That play was at the start of a game that the Blue Devils won after a controversial crease violation, 16-15. It made a huge difference in momentum, as Duke won the first quarter 6-4.

Here Brower is earlier in his Duke career using a V-hold to block off the topside against St. Joseph's. He used it multiple times in this game from different areas on the field.

He caused a turnover using the same technique minutes later. The reason he succeeds with this tactic so often is because of ideal positioning that’s achieved with pristine footwork. 

Many teams like to match up based on their defenseman’s dominant hand, whether it’s lefty on lefty or righty on lefty. And when the dominant hands match, V-holds are extremely useful. Whatever Tierney plans to do, having a left-handed close defenseman will open up a variety of options the Dogs didn’t have last season. 

Brower’s dominance has only grown with time. This season, he held Syracuse star Joey Spallina scoreless in their regular-season matchup, and he’s shut down countless other stars during his time at Duke. That included his 2024 teammate (and Denver Outlaws third-round pick) Josh Zawada while Zawada was at Michigan.

Zawada scored two goals on seven shots, and Brower caused four turnovers while picking up three ground balls. After that, the Michigan product was happy to only go against him in practice this past season.

“It’s cool for him to be on our side now,” Zawada said. “I think he’s definitely one of the best or the best defenseman in the country, and it makes everyone better out there when you go against him.”

Brower's success against now-PLL players can’t be overlooked. He is the new blood in the Waterdogs’ defense, and he’ll certainly make life difficult for Michael Sowers, Kieran McArdle and Ethan Walker at training camp as he tries to earn his keep.