There aren’t many ninth-graders who had the kind of weekend Ara Atayan did.

By the time the attackman/midfielder from New York State Class C finalist Bronxville flew home from Chapel Hill, N.C., last night, Atayan’s college choice had been completed.

Atayan verbally committed to the University of North Carolina yesterday to become the first member of the Class of 2017 to give a verbal and the first high school freshman in any sport in Hudson Valley history to make a Division I commitment.

Atayan told Joe Lombardi that he gave the verbal late Sunday morning before informing Joe shortly thereafter while in the airport in North Carolina.

“I met with (UNC Head) Coach (Joe) Breschi and the other (UNC) coaches yesterday,” Atayan said in yesterday’s update on’s Lacrosse Insider special coverage section. “They offered me a spot on the squad, and after talking to my parents and thinking it over, I accepted this morning.

“I’m excited about the challenge of improving my game over the next four years.”

The 5-foot-7, 150-pound Atayan is a versatile, quick and athletic player. He is equally strong with either hand, which makes him especially effective on dodger and sliding back and forth between attack and midfield.

“My ability to use both hands at a high level has helped my game a lot,” he said. “In addition, I look at myself as a two-way middie who loves to get the ball back and push transition. I like to play fast and share the ball.

You can watch Atayan’s highlight reels here.  (You can see links to more highlights at the end of the Q&A).

Atayan is quarterback/linebacker/punter in football for the Broncos’ junior varsity team and also plays basketball.

“I am also working towards my black belt in karate, where I am currently an advanced brown belt,” he said.

He was introduced to lacrosse by his sister, Alina Atayan, who is currently a freshman playing at Marquette University.

recruiting_updateNow, here’s a Q&A with Ara on his commitment.

What were the main factors in your decision?
The coaching staff, school, campus, facilities and culture. I went to UNC Camp each of the last two years and really got to know and respect  the coaches at UNC. I felt very comfortable talking to all of them and expressing how I felt about the university.  Also I loved how the school was set up, everything is very centrally located and accessible for the athletes.

In addition, as I am young, I have a lot of time to decide what I want to study. Carolina has a wide range of majors and they give you time to pick while you are there. After touring the campus I felt really at home.

UNC has a lot of history being the oldest state school in the country and is absolutely beautiful. The facilities are first class there, from the work out facilities to the academic help center, everything is top notch.

The culture at UNC is great. Everyone is so supportive of the student athletes and the other sport athletes are supportive of each other. Athletes are just another part of the student body as a whole; not some separate group perceived as getting special treatment. In addition, I love what (UNC Head) Coach (Joe) Breschi and his staff take pride in: family, academics, lacrosse. That is something I know will stick with me forever.

Finally, I want to be a contributor to a school that has very high goals such as winning the ACC championship and NCAA championship.

What other schools were you considering and what schools did you visit?
I was always very focused on UNC. However, I did consider other great schools such as Virginia, Penn State, Ohio State and Georgetown. They all have amazing programs. But UNC felt right for me.

What area of your game do you need to work on?
I’m still physically growing and maturing. I feel a responsibility to continue to improve all aspects of my game so I enter UNC as a valuable asset to the program. I also want to continue working on my shooting from all spots of the field, as well as dodging from all parts. I will also be working to continuously work on my lax IQ because that is something I think can grow forever.

What travel team do you play on what showcase events did you participate in?
I play for the Long Island Express Orange team, where I am coached by Mike Chanenchuk Sr. and John Lynott. This summer I participated in the 2017 Nike Bluechip Camp and also the UNC Team Camp (as a free agent).

Any final thoughts?
I’d first off like to thank my parents (Christopher and Rene Atayan) who have put so much time and effort into getting me to lacrosse practices and tournaments – the Bronxville-to-Long Island ride takes commitment from both of us – and helping me make the right decisions about what teams to play for and guiding me through this process.

I’d also like to thank my sister who got me started and always believed in me.

In addition, I’d like to thank my club coaches Mr. Chanenchuk , Mr.Lynott , and the other Express coaches for all that they have taught me about myself and the player I am, and especially how much they pushed me.

I’d also like to thank my high school varsity coach, Tim Horgan, for allowing me to play JV this past season and for putting a lot of trust and support behind me. In addition, I’d like to thank my JV coach, Jake Kolb, who helped me have a great experience this past spring on the Broncos team as the only eighth-grader.

The McCall brothers who played at UNC, Matthias and Mike,  have given me a lot of new tools to my game and support since the seventh grade.

My BYLA (Bronxville Youth Lacrosse Association) youth coaches were very important to me: Mr. Joe Landy and Mr. Jerry Frost, who helped instill the fundamentals of the game in me and were the start to my passion for lacrosse, as well as Mr. Paul Repp, who has  been passing down his lacrosse experience to me.

Finally I’d like to thank my Express and Bronxville teammates, and their parents, for all the support, good times, and extra push to be our best in practices, and in competition.

More highlights of Atayan in action

* Lake Placid tournament (midfield) 

* High school JV season (attack; the only eighth-grader on the team, he was named Offensive MVP)

* Jake Reed Nike Blue Chip Rising Freshman

Have a recruiting commitment to report? Email us at or or send a Tweet to @Joe_Lombardi or @LaxLessons.


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14 Responses to “Bronxville (NY) midfielder Ara Atayan becomes first Class of 2017 lax commit and first freshman to ever verbal for any sport in Hudson Valley history”

  1. sec1 says:

    Congrats to Ara on a great choice, Ara is and excellent player on both sides of the field. Also even more important is Ara is a outstanding person, I will enjoy watching him at Bronxville the next 4yrs.

  2. Bronco Bob says:

    Heartfelt congratulations to a fine player and an even better young man.

  3. LaxFat says:

    Just a horrible trend in lacrosse. UNC coaches should be ashamed.

  4. MLL says:

    Why should they be ashamed? They just recruited an incredible player. As far as I am concerned this trend to earlier recruiting is very beneficial. Yes there are a few kids who flake out after the commitment but most actually perform better in school and on the field. The pressure is off.

    • slacrosse says:

      No 13/14 yr old kid should be put in a position by a college OR his parents (except under dire financial circumstances) to be enticed into choosing where is going to university 4 yrs from now.

      Pressure is off? No. Now it’s really on. This kid now has a label on his back saying “I’m 13/14 and so good that UNC has already recruited me”! Every play he makes, good ones and PARTICULARLY the bad ones will be scrutinized by his team mates, opposing players, fans, and yes UNC to see if they made the right bet. I hope he’s up to it because some kids would not be.

    • LaxFat says:

      The pressure is ON and will REMAIN too soon and for too long. Look, I accept he’s a good kid and is likely a good lacrosse player too. He’s also a player who went to the same tournaments my son played in last Summer (MVP, Young Gunz). There was not a player on the LI Express who stamped down an exceptional performance at these tourneys, and in those tourneys LI Express went out easily in the qualifier rounds. If this kid is not the best player on the field in tournaments in the next year, there will be all kinds of awful things people call fun at his expense. Just ask Sam Offutt about the remarks for being a fourth line middie on his high school team as a UVA commit last year.

  5. New Trend says:

    Another reason UNC has not been to a final 4 in over 20 years. They gamble way too much on future potential that does not pan out to be exactly what they need to win championships.
    I believe it is hard for a college to make an offer to a 9th grader no matter what his level of play is. They have soo much more learning and growing to do. What happens if he academically can not get into UNC or he doesnt grow another inch and stays at 5’7″ 150lbs. They are basically taking a gamble that this player panning out to be worthy of scholarship. No one and even the coaches wont know how much of a scholarship he will be given till his senior year of high school. If he does not live up to his hype he will receive some bogus scholarship like 3-5k a year and thats it. If he does he will receive more. Like with NCAA football more and more 7th and 8th graders are getting offers based on future potential. Eventually the NCAA will step in and probably not allow any contact till a certain year of HS. I wish him all the best and hopefully he continues to work hard and prosper.

  6. Lax n stuff says:

    Impressive highlight films. The kid looks legit,

  7. Laxipotimus says:

    Interesting exchange slacrosse. Give us a hint. Was the school somewhere around the Beltway or Beyond?

    It is too early, but the commitment is not binding and we’ve already seen a rash of kids decommitting from where they verballed. Seems like I read about one every couple of weeks here.

    NCAA is a mess with huge scandals like Oklahoma State. They will not take jurisdiction over this issue which is small potatoes to them now as they protect their TV rights fees revenues and credibility amid these cheating scandals in football and basketball.

    • slacrosse says:

      Yes to your question.

      Interesting but I guess not surprising how they emphasized the pressure from the parents as a factor as well. If parents were not so worried about teams filling up their classes so early there would not be this pressure from parents.

      Yes this is small potatoes for the NCAA but yet so simple for even them
      to deal with, with just a little attention on their part

      • LaxFat says:

        It is likely correct to conclude that the NCAA cares about lax as much as they do about wrestling or tennis, which is not at all. Lax needs to learn to self administer and cannot seem to do it.

        Interesting point above. The 14 year old getting push brokered by the parents to colleges (and 100.00% of early recruiting is PARENT INITIATED AND DRIVEN…coaches cannot talk to the kids) is in for a tough one in 3 years if he does not grow physically and develop. What is UNC sees this and dilutes it by giving the kid $1000 a year. This is a sport where $10K at schools running over $40K per annum is generous.

  8. sec1 says:

    You hit it right on the head with your 2nd post, I am not a fan of early verbal it needs to be changed.
    I have seen Ara play and thought enough of him that I went up to the Lake Placid Tourney to watch him for 3 days, he is a very good player very…

  9. Laxmom says:

    Totally agree way too early…Shame on these coaches that push these kids before they have even played a day of varsity!! Total pressure agreed on the kid….what kid at 13/14 can honestly say they know where they want to be after high school….and shame on the parents for thinking this is ok….let them enjoy high school for gods sake….and yes its not binding but then by allowing all this time to think and de-committ takes away from the whole process for the athletes who are committing at the right age…. The coaches need to evaluate why they are committing highs school freshman…whats next 6th graders….NCAA rules need to change before its too late.

  10. LaxFat says:

    Bravo Laxmom. On reflection, somewhere out there is the best 8th grader, best 7th grader and on down in age. What we are talking about is brokering children, and in the most public way even if they are fabulous lacrosse players. And I trust that they are. There is likely some equity in that for the family — sealing a deal so you know a kid is going to a great academic school with some financial aid. I was reminded by a friend that out there are alumni families dumping huge donations into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, et al to implicitly lock-in a spot for their kids to attend as a legacy, and there are implicit bargains (certain amounts of donate do assure admission). Some of these families do this while their kids are still in diapers. But you won’t be reading about Harvard 2031 commits in any newsletters and therein lies the serious public esteem and pressure matters for the sports related spots.

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