Tehoka Nanticoke: 'I Think Everything Happens For a Reason'

PHOTO BY BEN GREEN

Just a few months after being dismissed from the Albany men's lacrosse team, Tehoka Nanticoke was selected No. 3 overall by the Buffalo Bandits.


Tehoka Nanticoke grew up around lacrosse royalty.

He fondly remembers the days he served as a ball boy for the Buffalo Bandits. A self-described arena rat, he hung around their practices, as well as the Rochester Knighthawks’, when the teams gathered in Six Nations.

He was coached in peewee by Darris Kilgour. He took shots on Matt Vinc. He was in locker rooms with John Tavares, whose jersey still hangs on Nanticoke’s wall. He had great mentors in his brothers, too. He credits Chancey Hill greatly for his success, and he got to watch Travis Hill suit up in the NLL with Minnesota and Rochester.

“Seeing that at a young age was unreal for me, just to be able to step back and soak it in, knowing one day that was the dream I wanted,” Nanticoke said.

Now, he’s part of the next generation of National Lacrosse League stars that kids admire.

After many drives south to watch the Bandits play in his formative years, Nanticoke heard his name called by Buffalo when the franchise selected him third overall in this year’s NLL Draft. The fit has been seamless, with the former Albany star ranked second in the league in goals by a rookie with 11 heading into Week 12.

His path hasn’t always gone according to plan, but his dream came to fruition. Now, he’s rejuvenated.

“I think everything happens for a reason,” Nanticoke said. “I truly believe that now. Getting rewarded for this after everything I’ve been through is unreal. I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

The most disruptive roadblock in Nanticoke’s still young lacrosse career came last spring when he was dismissed from Albany’s men’s lacrosse team. He released a statement the day the news broke, explaining his premature departure was the best outcome for himself and the future of the team.

If that cast any doubts about the former No. 1 recruit’s character among the Bandits’ brass, Tavares was there to dispel them. The Hall of Famer turned bench boss had already spent time coaching Nanticoke in Canadian summer ball with the Six Nations Chiefs.

There he saw Nanticoke succeed playing against NLL talent. He also got to know Nanticoke as a person, finding him incredibly coachable and team focused.

“I thought he was the best player in the draft,” Tavares said. “I was surprised he didn’t go first overall.”

Buffalo was the team Nanticoke dreamed of playing for when he was young, imagining the raucous crowd of the then-HSBC Arena. Yet he understood the nature of the draft. He could end up anywhere.







The Bandits were certain they wouldn’t let him drop further than No. 3. After Jonathan Donville and Ryan Lanchbury went off the board, they got their guy.

And now, he’s fitting right into a Bandits offense that was high powered even before he got there.

“It’s nice adding Tehoka to a right side with Chase Fraser, Kyle Buchanan and Dhane Smith,” Tavares said. “Sometimes there’s issues when you have so many guys who want the ball and need the ball. But Tehoka, he can play without the ball and with the ball. He’s born to play lacrosse. He knows exactly what to do in every situation. He plays like a bull at times, but he has a very high IQ.”

He also possesses a level of creativity you can’t teach.

Nanticoke made his NLL debut on Dec. 4, 2021, against the Calgary Roughnecks. It took him less than three minutes to bag his first goal when Buchanan found him cutting down the middle of the offensive zone.

“Just thinking about it, when I first ran on the floor, goosebumps,” Nanticoke said.

He’s found stability away from the arena, too. Nanticoke was open with his mental health following his departure from Albany. He shared a post on Instagram in August detailing his battle with depression.

“I wish I did it sooner,” Nanticoke said. “It was always in the back of my head. It was heavy. It carried a lot, which made everything else harder. When I finally said what I said and got off what I needed to get off my chest, it was another thing that there’s no words for. It was much needed. I couldn’t be happier to still be here and be where I’m at now, playing for the team I’m playing for now and the teammates I’m playing with and everyone who believes. It’s unreal.”

Nanticoke said 2021 was about starting a new chapter in that Instagram post. So far, so good.

“Tehoka has the potential to have a long, lustrous career,” Tavares said. “That’s what I want for him. I want him to get better every game, every year, every season. He’s a great player now. I think he can be even better and he will be even better.”

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