Despite having two years of high school left, Aquinas' Billy Lombardi has given a verbal commitment to Penn State to play lacrosse.
For many high school students entering their junior year, college is still a bit of a distant thought. The next two years are often critical in the decision-making process that usually comes for seniors.
But Aquinas' Billy Lombardi is not like most 16-year-olds and his talents on the lacrosse field and in the classroom have afforded him the ability to plan his future now, and he chose to do so.
Lombardi, a Greece resident, has given a verbal commitment to Penn State to play lacrosse when he graduates in 2013.
"I really felt after going down there and meeting with the coaches and seeing everything that the school had to offer academically and athletically, that this is where I wanted to play my college lacrosse."
Lombardi said the process happened rather quickly. After being noticed at a camp in Syracuse this summer, Lombardi said he had a chance to meet Nittany Lions' coach Jeff Tambroni, and the two hit it off.
"He is the type of guy that really values high character and said he checked my references and that I was the kind of guy they were looking for," Lombardi said. "He credited my ability to faceoff and do the dirty work on the lacrosse field. I liked his philosophy and with all the great things the school offered, I knew it was the right decision, so I made it."
While Lombardi still has two years of high school remaining, Aquinas coach Jason Mordaci said his decision to commit early is not that uncommon in the lacrosse world.
"Highly sought after recruits in lacrosse often make up their minds before their junior year," he said. "Penn State is a great institution that wants to be a top program and that requires getting guys now who will help them in a few years and Billy will definitely be able to do that."
Lombardi started playing lacrosse in the third grade in Hilton's youth program before playing Aquinas Youth Lacrosse.
He was called up to varsity as an eighth grader where the midfielder scored his first varsity goal.
It was his freshman season where he really started to standout.
"He is a really strong kid and and you can see it in his stature," Mordaci said. "He is great at the faceoff, and being just a junior, you can see that he has potential to be even greater."
One of the dilemmas with the early decision is the fact that Lombardi is also a standout football player with the Irish. The running back was an integral piece of the state championship team from last year and says he hasn't totally shut the door on a football career.
Page 2 of 2 - Since the commitment was just a verbal - all he is allowed to give at this time - although he has all intentions of honoring it, he said if things change and he has an opportunity to to play football in college elsewhere, he wouldn't rule it out.
"I am not going to give up on football and there are a lot of factors that would have to fall into place," he said. "I just know that if I am going to play lacrosse in college, Penn State is where I want that to be."
Lombardi was known mostly for his defensive ability and faceoffs at the midfield position, but now that the Irish have graduated may top scorers, Mordaci sees him transforming his role into more of a scorer.
"We may ask him to be more offensive minded over the next two years and we know he can be," Mordaci said. "He has been working a lot on his stick handling and his shot and while he hasn't had to be that scorer for us before, he may have to be this year."
Lombardi scored nine times and added six assists as a sophomore.
Penn State has three current Section 5 players on its roster, Penfield's Kyke VanTof, Geneva's Tyler Travis and Canandaigua's Tom Lacrosse.
Lombardi says his focus over the next two years will be to improve as much as possible to get ready for the college game.
"I want to work on my offense and my leadership ability as I feel those are two big parts of the college game," Lombardi said. "I also want to continue to get stronger and work with (Jim Bellucco) my strength coach who I owe the world to. I have some time to develop even further."