One of the biggest trends in the lacrosse world is the increased offensive role of long-stick midfielders. For many years, the LSM position was seen as relatively standard. LSMs would play on defensive possessions, clear the ball, and run off the field when the ball was on offense. Enter Larken Kemp, the 3 time All-American LSM who is considered a pioneer of the offensive LSM movement. LaxWeekly was fortunate enough to talk with Kemp about his career and the future of lacrosse.
Great Lacrosse Shaft: Maverik Range Defensive Shaft
The Greenwich, CT native originally wanted to be a college hockey player, and that desire led Kemp to attend Philips Andover– a prestigious secondary school in Massachusetts that is known for its academics and athletics. While pursuing hockey, Kemp realized that he had a deeply rooted passion for lacrosse. “My first love will always be hockey. I am fortunate that I had extremely supportive parents who pushed me to try any and everything and ultimately that allowed me to find my niche.”
Having grown up a short stick, Kemp quickly excelled once he switched positions to LSM his sophomore spring. His coach at Andover gave him the freedom to play man up, man down, run wings and stay on during some 6 on 6 sets. Despite Kemp’s versatility and talent on the field, he was not heavily recruited. After visiting a few schools, he committed to Lars Tiffany at Brown. Tiffany was able to identify Kemp’s talent and picked him up late in the recruiting process after only seeing Kemp play once in person. When more notable schools began to offer him, Kemp went with his gut and stuck with Brown. “I fear deeply that teenagers today in the face of mounting pressure and exogenous variables largely driven by social media usage often make recruiting decisions in an effort to appease. My biggest advice is to block out the noise; and make a decision that is in the best interest of your happiness.”
Despite Kemp’s play style, he had to earn the freedom to play both ways at Brown. “If teams were going to watch tape from my freshman year they would see something completely different from my junior year. I had to gain the confidence of the coaching staff and most of all my teammates.” Once he settled in as a do it all two way midfielder, Kemp began to create highlight plays week after week; creating turnovers and sparking transition. Kemp had catalyzed his team into a fast-paced lacrosse monster that nobody wanted to face.
Lacrosse Head for Defense: STX Hammer
During the playoffs in 2016, Kemp shined on lacrosse’s biggest stage by playing lights out against Johns Hopkins and Navy before facing Maryland in the Final Four. “I gave myself like 4-5 seconds just to look around and say ok this is pretty cool and then we put the blinders on and went to work.” Brown ended up losing to Maryland in a high-powered game by one goal. Despite the loss, Kemp and his dynamic team had made a statement of how a non-conventional team with true two-way LSMs could be a legitimate threat to win it all.
Kemp continued to dominate as a team captain during his senior year under the leadership of Mike Daly who had transitioned over from Tufts. Despite the change, his team rallied to a 10-6 record with Kemp tallying 8 goals and 9 assists and came within one goal of a NCAA Tournament berth. Larken leaves Providence having left a substantial mark on both the program and lacrosse landscape. The school record holder in Goals, Assists, Points, GB’s, and Caused Turnovers for a defenseman; perhaps more impressive is his 3.88 GPA, responsibility as an undergraduate Teaching Assistant, and CoSIDA Academic All-American recognition. This strong finish to a great career at Brown was capped off by Kemp being drafted to the Denver Outlaws in the 2nd round of the MLL draft. “Getting to play with and against my idols has been a dream come true. Playing professionally is a privilege and I am extremely motivated to put in the work necessary to hopefully add value to the Outlaws this spring and beyond.”
Recently Larken was added to an elite list in the history of United States lacrosse as the first American born player selected in the NLL Draft upon hearing the New England Black Wolves call his name. He is extremely excited about the challenge of learning the indoor game and the potential that the league has. “It is a grind it out blue collar type of league. I look at it as an extremely exciting opportunity to challenge myself defensively against some of the toughest, hardest working athletes on earth. To me, I feel an obligation to play. My hometown organization took a chance on me, and I intend to repay them. But it all starts with hard work.”
Larken Kemp is a lacrosse innovator and a pioneer for the growth of the sport. His electric play-style has left a permanent mark on the lacrosse community and has changed the game for all future LSMs. I guess we should not be surprised then that he still has the time to work as a Corporate Strategist at the Walt Disney Company. “My biggest frustration with lacrosse is that we have allowed it to stagnate. The product is fast, exciting, and (as a consumer) cheap. There is no excuse for the current lack of progress highlighted by figures such as attendance. As a community we need to come together and align goals. MLL, NLL, International Orgs, the NCAA, etc. How can we optimize the schedule and distribution system to create the best possible chance for real and substantial growth.”
We are excited to watch him continue to push the boundaries in the MLL, NLL, and beyond.