Harrison Rees’s path to college seemed pretty well laid out. The Oakville, Ontario native had a handful of scholarship offers — most notably from three-time NCAA champion Cornell — to play lacrosse. But Rees decided to hold off on his decision. Deep down, he really wanted to play hockey in college, but didn’t hold an offer as his junior year came around.
So he waited. And then, UConn came knocking.
Rees began talking with the Huskies’ former associate head coach Brendan Buckley. As things progressed, he planned a visit to Storrs with his parents in February 2017. And once he got on campus, lacrosse never even stood a chance.
“It was right when I visited UConn,” Rees said. “I knew it was hockey and this was the spot for me. I just knew this was where I was supposed to be. Everything fell into place with this school so I knew I could make that decision pretty easily but it was a tough decision to make.”
A week later, he got the formal scholarship offer from UConn and accepted it on the spot.
But in August 2018, Buckley left to take a job at Boston College. Considering he was the main coach who brought Rees to UConn, some recruits would’ve wavered in their decision. But Rees said the remaining coaching staff made his decision to stay a no-brainer.
“Right away Joe [Pereira] reached out to me and I felt completely welcomed,” Rees said. “I talked to him a little before Coach Buckley left but everyone else, Tyler [Helton] came in to watch me play and the coaching staff just made me feel comfortable with my decision. I didn’t have to second-guess it one bit.”
While Rees ultimately settled on hockey, he’s still grateful for his time as a lacrosse player. As the debate about whether or not kids should specialize in one sport to best prepare them for college athletics rages on, Rees gave a pretty convincing argument in favor of playing multiple sports.
“Growing up, having those two sports there having those two different seasons — hockey’s winter, lacrosse is summer — so being able to go through the whole hockey year and have that opportunity to step away and play a different sport and mix it up, as a younger kid, I think it was good for me,” he said. “I never got bored of hockey or I never got bored of lacrosse. It was a good mixture.”
On top of that, Rees felt hockey and lacrosse were good complements to each other.
“I think they can compare well with each other with high body contact, high pace. They’re both similar games,” Rees said. “They helped me with both sports, helped me get where I am today.”
However, once Rees committed to UConn, he knew it was finally time to put the lacrosse stick down for good. Not only did he want to avoid an injury, he knew he needed to start putting in a lot of work to get himself ready for the college game. While lacrosse played a big part in his life growing up, he’s knows it’s time to focus on hockey.
“I think I’m pretty ready for it,” Rees said about playing hockey year-round now. “I’ve matured and I know this is the game I love so it’s not going to affect me in any way. I know I made the right decision.”
And now that he’s at UConn, Rees has one goal in mind.
“I want to come here and be apart of this program and make as much history as possible,” he said. Whether we can do it or not, I wanted to come here.”