Sophomore Mark Miyashita had never laid eyes on Buffalo before arriving at Canisius College last fall to start school. He'd never seen snow fall at an inch an hour before and wasn't a chicken wing gourmet.
But it didn't take long for him to prove he has remarkable powers of adaptability.
"Some of the guys from the East told me it got very cold," said Miyashita, who grew up in Richmond, British Columbia, just outside Vancouver. "They said 'Buffalo wasn't a good town' and 'I don't know why you'd want to go there.'
"I knew a little bit about the Bandits from getting the odd NLL (National Lacrosse League) game on TV. Buffalo's not that bad. I'm enjoying myself here."
He particularly enjoyed his freshman season as a Golden Griffins lacrosse player. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder led the nation with a school-record 139 ground balls in 13 games (10.69 per game). He was also 21st in faceoff percentage (.566) and 27th in assists per game (1.77), while leading Canisius in scoring with 24 goals and 47 points.
Miyashita was honored prior to the Golden Griffins' football home opener against St. Peter's Saturday at the Demske Sports Complex for his ground-ball prowess.
"My focus on ground balls is to pattern my game after (ex-Bandit) Jim Veltman," Miyashita said. "I try to vacuum every loose ball because it's such a big part of the game. It gives you so many more possessions. You tend to win more often than not when you get more possessions. I look at it as a chance to help my team win. It's something I feel I've got to do to be successful."
Like most Canadian players, he grew up playing box lacrosse and was recruited to Canisius by head coach Randy Mearns. He chose the Griffins over better-known programs like Radford, Hartford, Siena, Ohio State and Maryland-Baltimore County.
"Playing box, you're always in the scrum for a loose ball," Mearns said. "It's something you just keep doing and doing in box, whereas in field lacrosse, maybe half the loose balls go out of bounds so you don't have to keep fighting for it the way you do in box."
Miyashita, a secondary education major, played six years of football (as a fullback/linebacker) and basketball (as a power forward).
"I fell in love with lacrosse when I was about 8 years old," he said. "I always had more of a passion for it than I did for football or basketball. My goal is to play for the (Canadian) men's national team some day, to wear the maple leaf across my chest. Then I want to get into the NLL, maybe the MLL some day."
Until then, he'll be content helping steer Canisius toward its first winning season.
"I was sold on the fact that I could step in and help this program develop into hopefully a team that can compete in the NCAAs in a few years," said Miyashita, who this summer helped the Burnaby (B.C.) Lakers win the Minto Cup -- Canada's national junior championship.
"I want to be a part of the building blocks."
The Bandits lost Shane Wannamaker to the Columbus Landsharks in the NLL expansion draft. The Columbus franchise is owned in part by former NLL commissioner John Livsey Jr., who said, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it would be an overwhelming success," at the news conference to officially announce the NLL's ninth franchise. Why Landsharks? Livsey said he often has visited Ohio for two reasons -- Jimmy Buffett concerts and Sea World. "There's sharks aplenty in both spots, and Columbus is somewhat landlocked," he said.
The NLL will name Livsey's successor at a New York news conference Tuesday, where the 2000-01 schedule will be released. The Bandits will open Thursday, Dec. 21 against two-time defending champion Toronto in the Rock's new home -- the Air Canada Centre.
Pittsburgh's old NLL franchise, which has relocated to Northern Virginia, is now considering playing in the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. The team had expected to play its home games in the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va.
Baltimore is the first market to officially be awarded a franchise in MLL, which plans to begin play next summer. Seven locations remain to be announced and will come from a pool including Buffalo, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Fairfield County, Conn., Long Island, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. MLL will hold a scouting combine in Orlando, Nov. 10-12, where about 250 players will be invited to audition for jobs.
Bandits captain Mike Accursi will be featured at a clinic, open to the public, at the Eden High field from 1 to 4 p.m., next Sunday.