The National Lacrosse League, like most professional leagues recently, held its annual draft Friday virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And even though it was a different experience than being in-person, hearing his name called was still special for Charlie Kitchen.
The New England Black Wolves selected Kitchen in the second round (24th overall) of the 2020 NLL Entry Draft, which was livestreamed on Facebook, YouTube and Bleacher Report Live.
New England general manager Rich Lisk informed him via text moments before the Black Wolves’ time clock expired.
“It was literally one of the most amazing things ever,” said Kitchen, a 2016 St. Augustine Prep graduate who helped the Hermits reach the state Non-Public A semifinals three consecutive seasons (2014, 2015 and 2016).
“I have just been working for this my entire life. Getting a text that said, ‘Welcome to the team,’ is super exciting. My family and friends were freaking out. It was a great day.”
St. Augustine coach J.C. Valore expressed his pride in Kitchen on Saturday.
“Our program’s extremely proud of Charlie,” Valore said. “In a league flooded with Canadian talent (the NLL has a lot of Canadian players who grow up playing box/indoor lacrosse), for Charlie not only to be drafted but be selected second-round, speaks volumes of his skill set and continued work ethic. I’m excited to watch him cap off a record-breaking career at Delaware this spring and also for what lies ahead for him in the NLL.”
Kitchen was watching the draft with friends in his dorm at the University of Delaware. The 22-year-old from Marlton, Burlington County, is a standout attacker for the Blue Hens.
Ninety-three athletes were selected in the six-round, 13-team draft. After he was drafted, Kitchen had a Zoom session with his family.
“It made me more anxious,” said Kitchen, who would have attended the draft in-person, about the virtual experience. “Being there, you just kind of have that release where you see faces, get to shake hands and see that everyone is there, whereas I’m just sitting here watching the TV.
“It was crazy, because you’re just sitting there hoping to hear your name. But they did a great job with it. It was really great for all those players. I’m happy for all of them. I’m happy I have this opportunity, as well.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Kitchern lost his senior season at Delaware due to the coronavirus outbreak, but he took the fifth-year eligibility option the NCAA gave all the seniors who lost the opportunity to compete this spring. He is already listed on Delaware’s 2021 roster.
The NLL, which is an indoor lacrosse league, runs its regular season from December to April. And since Kitchen will play for the Blue Hens next spring, he will not compete in the upcoming season in the NLL.
But an extra season in college could be beneficial.
“I’m so excited (for another chance to play for the Blue Hens),” said Kitchen, who led Delaware (10-5) to the Colonial Athletic Association semifinals and was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.
The Blue Hens were 4-2 before the NCAA canceled the season. Next spring, Kitchen aims for a third straight appearance in the CAA Tournament.
Kitchen said his teammates and coaches at Delaware are another reason for his decision to compete another season in college.
“It only adds maturity to my game, which helps me in the long run,” Kitchen said. “It gives me another year to get in better shape and become a better player. … I just knew I had to come back.”
The NLL consists of 12 other teams — Georgia Swarm, Philadelphia Wings, New York Riptide, Halifax Thunderbirds, Toronto Rock, Buffalo Bandits, Rochester Knighthawks, Saskatchewan Rush, Colorado Mammoth, San Diego Seals, Calgary Roughnecks and Vancouver Warriors.
The Black Wolves, who were 8-3 and the top-seed in the league before the season was canceled in March, play their home games at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
New England is coached by Glenn Clark, who Kitchen played under in the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League, which adds to his excitement to play in New England.
“They are a great program,” said Kitchen, who noted the team traded some forwards and were looking to add attackers. “I just hope I can bring my talent there and compliment them extremely well where I can excel, not only as a player but a person for their team.
“I just want to have a great time in New England, be the best player and hopefully bring what they think I can bring to the team. They are giving me the opportunity to play professionally, so I really want to make them proud.”