LACROSSE THE GLOBE

Written By: Robert Cocuzzo | Photography By: Kit Noble

Nantucket’s Jamaican Lacrosse players step onto the world stage this summer.

This July, the first-ever Jamaican national lacrosse team will compete in the World Championships held in Israel. While the team is made up primarily of players from around the United States with Jamaican heritage, six of the athletes actually started their lacrosse careers playing for the Nantucket Whalers. In fact, one of the six players is widely regarded as the greatest Jamaican lacrosse player to have ever touched the field.

Hakeem Lecky was born and raised in Jamaica until the age of eight when his mother moved him to Nantucket. He’d never heard of lacrosse and played football and basketball for the Whalers. Running back punts for touchdowns, Lecky’s astounding athleticism caught the attention of Nantucket high school’s lacrosse coach, Kevin Martin. That spring, Coach Martin put a lacrosse stick in Lecky’s hands. In his very first game, he scored four goals and racked up a handful of assists. So it was that a lacrosse prodigy was born.

But as his fledgling lacrosse career was taking off, Lecky’s home life hit some rough patches. His mother left the island, leaving him to live with one of his high school friends. When that friend’s family decided to move back to their native Brazil, Lecky’s life was hurled back in limbo. That’s when Coach Kevin Martin, then only twenty-five years old, decided to take Lecky in and become his legal guardian.

Eating, sleeping and breathing lacrosse, Hakeem Lecky became one of the most dominating high school players in the country. He received a full scholarship to Syracuse University — arguably the top lacrosse school in the world. There he became an All-American and one of the only players to ever serve as a two-time captain of the Syracuse Orange. After earning his master’s at Syracuse, Lecky went on to play professional lacrosse for the Long Island Lizards. Now this summer he’s looking to add another line to his list of conquests.

“Words can’t really describe the feeling I get when I think about representing my country — it sends chills down my spine,” says Lecky, who now works in commercial real estate in Manhattan. “It’s the first year that Jamaican lacrosse will be in the world games. The fact that we have the opportunity to represent our country is pretty special.”

Two of the five players joining Lecky from Nantucket are Mark Dwyer and Delroy Lawrence, who both still live and work on the island.

Both played at elite collegiate lacrosse programs after high school and are now relishing in the opportunity to get back on the field and represent their native Jamaica. “I think this team coming together is opening the opportunities for Jamaicans to learn from the creators of the game,” says thirty-year-old Mark Dwyer, who helps coach youth lacrosse on the island. “It’s adding another sporting outlet for Jamaica to compete worldwide, which will help spread the culture and also continue to grow the game.”

Rounding out Jamaica’s squad from Nantucket is Bryan Depass, a twenty-two-old midfielder who currently plays for Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina as well as Matthew Marrett, a thirty-year-old who was the captain of the University of the District of Columbia Firebirds and today coaches at MadLax Sports in Washington D.C. “Lacrosse has given me so many opportunities to better myself,” Marrett says. “Lacrosse has given me the opportunity to go to college, receive my degree, play the sport that I love, meet amazing people along the way, and has given me a chance to play with the Jamaican National Lacrosse team… I feel grateful to even play this sport.”

Appropriately enough, this Nantucket contingent will be led on to the world stage by the man who first put a lacrosse stick in their hands — Coach Kevin Martin. “It’s not like some ragtag group,” says Martin, who now lives in the Florida Keys where he runs an elite club lacrosse program called Sweet Lax. “There are some great players on the team. They have an All-American from the University of Maryland, a guy who played at Ohio State and a guy who played at Michigan. So it’s a pretty good team, if they come together.”

Although he doesn’t say as much, Martin must be most excited to see his Nantucket players take the field. Back when he started coaching them, no one believed these Jamaican players would pick up the sport and run with it as they have. No one, except Kevin Martin, of course. “When I gave a stick to Mark, Delroy, Hakeem, Matthew, and some of the other African American kids that weren’t Jamaican, the big thing people were saying to them was ‘black guys don’t play lacrosse,’” remembers the coach. “They told them, ‘You’ll never make it playing lacrosse. You have no future in lacrosse…’ Now, we’re getting the last laugh.”

Beginning on July 11th, the Jamaican Lacrosse Team will arrive in Netanya, Israel along with forty-eight other teams from around the world. Their first game is against the host nation on July 12th. “If Canada doesn’t go, Jamaica should be in a fight for a medal,” says Coach Martin, who will lead the team alongside head coach Errol Wilson and associate head coach Dale Walker. “If Canada goes, it will be them, USA, and Iroquois Nation as the top three medalist, then probably England, Israel and hopefully Jamaica battling for fourth. If one of those big guys doesn’t go, they’ll battle for the bronze, for sure.”

Beyond this year’s World Lacrosse Championships, some lacrosse writers are looking to the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles as setting up to be the debut of the sport in the Olympics. As the game continues to grow in Jamaica, chances are good that they’ll have an especially strong squad to wave the black, green and gold. “What makes me most happy is seeing the game of lacrosse spread across Jamaica,” says Hakeem Lecky. “My personal goal, beyond obviously representing team Jamaica the best that I can, is to see another Hakeem Lecky come out of Jamaica and represent themselves even better than I did at a top division one lacrosse school. Something like that is pretty powerful.

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