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Wiles enjoys life as a Bandit; Forward was big hit in debut with team

Luke Wiles has done more than his share of traveling during his seven-plus years in the National Lacrosse League. Maybe he's found a home with the Buffalo Bandits.

Wiles will play his second game for the Bandits tonight when they make the shortest road trip in the league, going 90 miles down the Thruway to face the Rochester Knighthawks (7:30 p.m.,, Radio 1520 AM).

"I was drafted fourth overall by Philadelphia [in 2005]," Wiles said. "I spent a half-year in Philadelphia, three years in San Jose, a year in Toronto, and two years in Washington. Nobody wanted to trade me within the conference, because they knew I'd hurt them, right? So they traded me to the other side."

Wiles was part of a Washington team that won a championship in 2010 and came within a goal in the NLL final of repeating the title in 2011. From a lacrosse standpoint, those years were the best experience of his career to that point. Wiles said the team was close and had great management and ownership.

But it came with a catch. Wiles was living in Orillia, Ontario, which is north of Toronto. That's a long way from suburban Seattle.

"I went from Orillia to Washington. I had to drive two hours to the airport and jump on a plane," he said. "I have elite status on Air Canada, so that's a positive. But I don't wish the travel on my worst enemy."

When the 2011 season ended, Wiles had plans to start a business in Orillia. He also knew he'd be caring for a wife and baby in the months ahead. So he requested a trade closer to home.

"I went to Doug Locker [the Stealth general manager] at the end of the season. I had built a good relationship with Doug and the owner, Denise Watkins," Wiles said. "It made sense for them to try to find something that was a better fit. If I had gone to them in the middle of the summer or later, it wouldn't have been good timing. The way I went to them, they felt comfortable about having me on the East Coast where I could be with my family."

As it turned out, the Bandits were interested in acquiring a player who had 60 points last season and participated in the NLL All-Star Game.

"After the final game last year, when Toronto knocked us out of the playoffs, we looked at the stats and got a feel for the game. We were a little disappointed with the right side of the offense," Bandits associate general manager Derek Graham said. "What better way to send a message than to bring someone who had a little fire? We threw some names around, and Luke Wiles came up the most often. It just so happened that I was coaching him in Senior B loop in Quebec league. I was pretty familiar with Luke and knew what he could do."

The Bandits dispatched a couple of draft choices to Washington for Wiles.

"Washington was in position to do the best they could to meet the demand of Luke Wiles," Graham said. "They didn't want to give him up for free, but we thought we made out well in the deal. They did us a favor, because they allowed us to have a really exceptional player."

Wiles moved his family to Western New York and reported to training camp in December. He found it didn't take long to fit in.

"About three minutes," he said with a laugh. "I've been watching Tracey Kelusky and John Tavares, and I watch the little things they do. This will be my best learning season. I think playing with them is going to help me.

"Tavares is incredible. He does all the small things right, and he's so smart with the ball. One time in practice he gave me a pass across the whole box. I caught it and took a shot. Then I realized he busted down the other side to look for a return pass. That's the kind of stuff I like to see. If I get it to him, he's got an open net."

Wiles was a standout in his first game as a Bandit, scoring three goals in last week's win against Toronto. But just going out on to the field before 16,000-plus brought back memories of a previous game in Buffalo, which was when he was a member of the Rock in 2009.

"We lost by about two touchdowns [25-10]. It was the night Mark [Steenhuis] broke the record with 17 points. I just kept looking at the score," Wiles said. "But the crowd was just crazy. I looked around and said, 'This is the best sporting event I've ever been to. It's awesome. This place just gets rocking.' I'm pretty pumped to be on this side of the fence."

Wiles will find out tonight that the Bandits' fans travel well, as many always make the trip to Rochester when those two teams get together. He has an idea of what it will be like and what he has to do.

"I've watched tape, and I've seen the teams and seen the rivalries," Wiles said. "The West is a lot more wide open that the East. The East is a little tougher and more in-your-face. I have to play it by ear. I have to go do a job for this team. No matter if it is East or West, I have to score goals and do the little things to help this team succeed."