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Times All-North lacrosse: Frontier League MVP McKinney puts mark on Watertown program

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WATERTOWN — Following his final game at the scholastic level — a disappointing Section 3 playoff loss — Brad McKinney consoled his teammates and then volleyed a ball off the brick wall of Case Middle School on the Watertown campus, repeating this several times.

This was both therapeutic for the senior midfielder as well as fitting, as McKinney seemingly never gave up on working to better both himself and the Watertown team.

For his efforts and dedication, McKinney is the Times All-North Most Valuable Player in boys lacrosse.

“It was a heartbreaker and a big letdown, but thinking back, we still had a good season,” McKinney said. “I had a great time and it was one of my favorite teams I’ve ever been a part of. So to experience it with some of my best friends, it was a good time.”

McKinney was recognized by Section 3 as he garnered All-American status, the only Frontier League player to earn the honor for this season.

“He’s been the backbone of our program for the last four years,” Watertown coach Brian Navarra said of Syracuse University-bound McKinney. “We started at the varsity level at the same time, me as a coach and Brad as a freshman. A lot of the things I’ve wanted to implement in the program, he’s been a true leader and helped mold the program into what I wanted it to be.”

The versatile McKinney led the Frontier League in scoring this season with 57 goals and ranked second in points (88). McKinney finished fifth in the league in assists with 29.

For his career, McKinney totaled 208 points, including 142 goals and 66 assists.

“He started out with us as just simply a great athlete through all of his hard work in the offseason,” Navarra said of McKinney, who played as a goalie for 12 games in his freshman season. “He progressed into a being a good dodger and a good shooter and then into a great dodger and a great shooter, as well as a great teammate and a great leader.”

McKinney is the second Watertown player in three seasons to garner All-American recognition, joining former teammate and goalie Matt Netto (2012).

Other Cyclone All-Americans include current Indian River coach Greg Niewieroski in 2004 and Kenny Nims in 2005, who both played for SU.

“On and off the field, he’s a very hard working guy and he’s very dedicated to the program,” Navarra said.

Just as McKinney helped Navarra provide direction for the program, the player credits his coach for his progress.

“He really helped me become the player that I am today,” McKinney said. “It started when he was the junior varsity coach and he helped out a lot of other people as well.”

The two came of age respectively, as the Cyclones program has made strides since then, including winning the Frontier League’s “A” Division in 2012.

This year, McKinney led Watertown to a 13-4 season and a second-place finish in the division, although the Cyclones were ousted in the opening round of the Section 3 playoffs.

McKinney also has helped out at other levels of the program. It was not uncommon for him to visit the modified team’s practice before the varsity team took the practice field, and he’s also volunteered to work with the program’s youth summer league teams.

“I just want to help the program,” McKinney said. “Coach Navarra has really put in his time helping me get better, so I just try and take what he taught me and teach it to the program’s youth. Hopefully they can have success in the years to come.”

“Our youth program has started out for the summer and at least twice a week he’s at the practices or the games literally teaching these kids,” said Navarra, “showing them the right way to do things and just being a good role model.

“He’s been involved with our youth and younger programs more than any player I’ve ever seen.”

McKinney hopes to make an impact at the collegiate level with Syracuse, where he will pursue studies in sports management and business.

“That was one of my big-time motivators,” McKinney said of his longtime goal of attending Syracuse. “It’s a great opportunity and watching Syracuse games when I was younger really got me into lacrosse and pursue where I really wanted to go to college. It’s great.”

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