By Budd Bailey
Billy Dee Smith of the Bandits
Taken in Round 1 in 2002
The next pick: Defender Travis Gillespie only played four seasons in the NLL. He was drafted by Columbus and played one season there. Then he had stops in Arizona and Calgary. Gillespie did some playing and coaching in Canada after that, and even worked to coach players in Taiwan for a while.
Other picks in that round: The Bandits had four picks eventually play for them. Jon Harasym was picked No. 2 by Columbus, Mark Steenhuis went No. 7 to Columbus, and Chad Culp brought Culp-a-Mania to the New York Saints when he went at No. 9. Patrick Merrill was the first overall pick by the Toronto Rock; he spent 12 of his 15 years in the league there.
The details: You want someone who will battle for his team and his teammates whenever he steps on a playing field? Smith was your man. He moved into the lineup for good in 2004, and stayed there through 2017. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Billy could be an intimidating sight for opposing forwards. Luckily, Smith was as nice off the field as he was tough on it. He spent his final two years as a player in Rochester, retiring after 2019, and became an assistant coach in Halifax in 2020.
Other 3s: Marcell Dareus (2011) played for six years with the Bills, and made two Pro Bowls. However, he was traded to Jacksonville for a draft choice after he violated the league’s substance abuse policy twice. Ernie DiGregorio (1973) certainly was more famous than Smith, but he didn’t contribute as much to his team over the long haul. Ernie D. was taken out of Providence by the Braves, and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1973-74. But he was never the same after a knee injury in the 1974-75 season. Speaking of bad knees, Elmore Smith (1971) had two good seasons with the Braves before he was traded to the Lakers for Jim McMillian, allowing Bob McAdoo to move to center. Other Bandits to be taken in this spot were Jason Luke (1995, played three seasons), Bret Bucktooth (2006, played five seasons), and Matt Gilray (2018, has played two seasons so far). Carly Jackson (2020) stepped right into the lineup in goal for the Beauts in the abbreviated 2020-21 season. Defender Amy Dahlkemper (2015) helped the WNY Flash win a championship in 2016, and she later played for Team USA in its win in the 2019 World Cup.
She got away: Megan Keller (2018) won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2018 Olympics, but has yet to play a game with the Beauts.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)
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