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Bandits newcomer Anthony Malcom impressed by reception

Anthony Malcom is feeling a little like a celebrity these days.

Malcom is one of the first-year players on the Buffalo Bandits, who play at New England against the Black Wolves on Saturday night (7:30 p.m., Radio 550 AM). The rookie moved to Buffalo at the start of the season, and he’s a little surprised to meet fans who recognize his name and know something about the team.

“It’s very interesting,” he said. “Even back home in Vancouver, which is considered a hotbed of lacrosse, the fans who go to the game are pretty much lacrosse-affiliated.”

Awareness of the Bandits by the community hits home when he joins veteran Mark Steenhuis for the Bandits’ school program, which has visited a number of facilities throughout Western New York. Malcom has been surprised by the turnout and enthusiasm at such events.

“When you go to these schools, everyone is decked out in Bandits gear,” he said. “I ask them if they play lacrosse, and a lot of them don’t even play. They are just fans of the sport. It’s interesting to be involved with casual fans who just love lacrosse, as opposed to just people who play it.”

It’s been part of a busy couple of months for Malcom, who was finishing up his time at Mars Hill University in North Carolina just last summer. The forward showed steady improvement in the outdoor game during his four years there and was named the South Atlantic Conference’s Player of the Year in 2015, after recording 65 points in only 16 games.

Then Malcom played for Langley of the Western Lacrosse Association, the top indoor league in British Columbia. There he totaled 26 goals and 23 assists in 18 games. It didn’t take long for Malcom to catch the eye of someone with a strong connection to the Bandits.

“I know Rob Buchan,” Malcom said. “He’s the vice president and general manager of the Thunder, and the Western scout for the Bandits.”

Buchan passed the word up the ladder to the Bandits’ front office about Malcom, and the word came down that Malcom probably would be Buffalo’s pick with its initial selection in the draft, a second-rounder (11th overall).

“I wasn’t able to be there, so I was watching it online in North Carolina,” Malcom said about the September draft. “It was a surreal feeling. It was quite an honor to be drafted by Buffalo, with all the great players they have offensively and defensively.”

After signing a contract, Malcom joined a few dozen other players in late November for the start of training camp. That served as something of a formal welcome to the professional ranks.

“It’s the first time I’ve had a legit training camp, with the coaches and training staff there,” he said. “Last year when I played in the WLA, I came back from school and already had a spot on the team.”

The Bandits have expressed a desire to become younger and more athletic as they try to reach the top of the National Lacrosse League standings. They hope Malcom can be a piece of the puzzle.

“I like the off-ball game,” he said about his playing style. “It’s the most prominent part of my game. I cut to the middle a lot, go to the corner, making things happens out of broken plays, and rely on my athleticism.”

Based on the season’s first three games, Malcom is starting to get the hang of playing in the National Lacrosse League. He had his first goal and assist in the game on Jan. 16 at Colorado, and added three assists a week later in the win over Toronto.

The Bandits and Black Wolves both have 2-1 records, the same record as Rochester in the NLL East.

Malcom is hoping his game will continue to improve this week.

“I’m just getting used to the guys,” Malcom said. “Now things are coming together on offense. We’re getting to know each other.”