A decision that Andrew Watt made when he was only 10 years old is still paying dividends.
“I grew up in Kitchener, Ont.,” the Buffalo Bandits transition player said. “I was a baseball player until I was 10. Then a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to play lacrosse. I quit baseball on the spot.
“I was actually pretty good at baseball, but it was too slow-paced for me. I needed something that was a little quicker, and lacrosse was that sport.”
Watt’s choice eventually led him to a pro career. He’ll continue his sixth year of indoor lacrosse tonight when the Bandits play the Colorado Mammoth in Denver (9 p.m., nll.com, Radio 1520 AM).
Watt played junior lacrosse in the Kitchener area and then spent four years at Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh. Watt was drafted by the Minnesota Swarm, and stayed there for five seasons.
“It was great,” Watt said about his time in Minnesota. “It’s a great organization, and I had a great five years there. But everything comes to an end.”
Last July, Minnesota sent Watt and forward Ryan Benesch to the Bandits for a pair of first-round draft choices.
“Andrew is a great transition player,” Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich said. “That’s the way the league is going – more up and down, and less five on five.”
Troy Cordingley, the Bandits coach, “wanted to get more speed out the back end,” Dietrich said. “When Minnesota made him available, we went after him.”
“It caught me off guard,” Watt said about the swap. “I was under the impression that they wanted me to stick around in Minnesota. I guess I didn’t fit with what they wanted. It’s a business. I was extremely happy to get traded here. If it had been somewhere else, it would have been more difficult. Being close to home and with this history of this organization, I’m really excited to be here for the second half of my career.”
When Watt arrived in Buffalo, he had no problem noticing the biggest change in the teams. In Minnesota, he was practically a “grizzled veteran,” since the Swarm have traded several veterans and stocked up on draft choices in the last couple of years.
With the Bandits, Watt – who just turned 30 last week – almost should be nicknamed “the kid.”
“It’s very different – it’s a big veteran group here,” Watt said. “I think it’s great. Coming to a new team, they can teach you the ins and outs of the system and how the organization works. You kind of watch them as a kid growing up, and now you get to play with them. It’s a pretty cool feeling to see all the veteran guys here.”
There’s one other obvious difference for Watt in Buffalo. Games are a bit louder in Banditland than they were in Minnesota.
“Coming in here, it’s a tough place to play. You don’t get an atmosphere like this anywhere else with the fans and the loudness of the rink. … A lot of the young guys would come in here and see 19,000 fans screaming. It’s pretty intimidating. … I’m happy to be on this side of the ball.”
Watt has fit in nicely so far in a transition role with the Bandits. Admittedly, every young player thinks he’ll be a top goal scorer for his entire career. The reality sets in and that same player finds himself in a different role.
“I spent most of my junior career as an offensive guy, and the transition role just kind of developed in the last several years,” Watt said. “I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. I get to run up and down the floor and play defense. I’ve played some offense, but there are so many better players out there, more skilled players. I had the speed. So they tried me there. There was a bit of a learning curve, but it was a lot of fun.”
Watt certainly enjoyed scoring his first goal as a Bandit. It came last week against Toronto, and broke an 8-8 tie to put Buffalo ahead for good. The Bandits went on to win that game and another one in Philadelphia two days later.
Now it’s on to Colorado, where tonight’s game figures to be the loudest road game of the season for Watt and the Bandits.
“It’s another tough place to play,” he said. “They draw well, and the altitude can make a difference. They have a lot of skill players, so we have to come out with our ‘A’ game and good defense. We have all the confidence in the world that the offense can score some goals.”