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Alumni: Becker Signs with Buffalo Bandits Ahead of Training Camp

Growing up in Salamanca as one of many lacrosse-playing kids, Josh Becker had two constant goals.

He wanted to represent the Seneca Nation with the Iroquois Nationals and he wanted to play for his favorite professional team, the Buffalo Bandits.

Becker accomplished the first last summer on the Iroquois team at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships.

Now he’s training to compete for a spot with the Bandits. Buffalo announced it signed Becker, a forward, to a one-year contract Thursday, along with draft pick Drake Smith, the younger brother of Buffalo star Dhane Smith, and undrafted rookie Brier Jonathan. On Monday, the Bandits signed second-year forward Anthony Malcolm and two rookies (forward Bryce Brochu and defenseman Justin Martin) to bring their roster to 36. By the season’s start in late December, National Lacrosse League teams cut down to 20 active roster and four practice squad spots.

Becker, 25, who lives in Salamanca, has been training at the Seneca Nation’s Allegany Community Center athletic facility before or after work.

“It’s definitely going to be a competitive and tough process so I’ve got to start training and getting focused now,”

Becker said after a workout Thursday. “This is probably the most focused I’ve been in a while. I’ve always had the dream. One of my dreams as a kid was to make the Iroquois and my ultimate, all-time dream was to play for the Bandits one day. This is probably the most focused I’ve been in a while, maybe ever aside from maybe a wrestling tournament or something like that.”

After a busy summer and fall playing various tournaments, Becker received training camp invitations from two other teams much further away from home. Preferring to try out closer to home, he contacted Rich Kilgour, the Bandits’ defensive assistant coach and former star player who coached Becker with the Iroquois Nationals.

Becker said he’s followed the Bandits since the playing days of Rich and Darris Kilgour and the Bomberry family.

“Signing with them is just the first step,” Becker said. “You’ve got to try out. Technically every player has to go to camp and there’s obviously guys they’ll keep around who are long-term hall of famers on the team. My goal is just to make the team, make it through the first week of that training camp and just keep improving. I haven’t really played at that high of a level. My goal is just to learn as much as I can as quick as possible and try and make that 24-man roster at the end of training camp and hopefully be officially part of the team.”

After a standout wrestling and lacrosse high school career, Becker continued playing lacrosse at Div. II Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, 30 miles east of Cleveland. He’s also played for the Allegany Arrows of the Can-Am league and took up youth coaching, last year serving as Salamanca’s head varsity coach.

While several players have made the NLL out of Irving, Becker could be the first Salamanca native to make the league. Whether or not it’s him, Becker said he’s sure one day soon that younger Salamanca players will make it.

“I want to see those kids make it there for sure,” he said. “My main thing is I’m not one to settle so I’ll always stick my neck out there and try out. I’m not afraid of failure or anything like that. I guess it’s just a process to show the kids, ‘don’t be afraid to do something. If you have a dream, go after it.’

He’s made it this far — signing with a team for camp — before. In 2014, Becker made it to the final week of camp with the New England Black Wolves in Connecticut and even had his picture taken in uniform before being cut.

Still fresh out of college at the time, Becker now thinks he could have done more to make that team.

“I was driving out to New England, a long way away,” Becker said. “To do all that traveling and make it to the last cut was kind of crappy but I’m hoping I can pull it off. I’ve got a lot of people rooting for me and a lot of people who helped me get here. I’ll do my best and hope it comes together.

“Just to go into it prepared. I was under-prepared, relying on my fitness and my college days to get me through it. I did pretty well but if I went into camp as fit as I could have been, if my speed and all that was where it could have been I think I would have had a good chance of making it. The biggest thing is being prepared and focused going in there.”

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