Drew Bavaro grew up playing hockey in Florida. His older brother went to Brooks school, and Bavaro decided to follow him to New England prep hockey. The 17-year-old recently committed to Bentley, where he will matriculate in 2020. The defenseman recently won the Small School championship.
Neutral Zone Prep chatted with Bavaro about his experience playing in Florida, how he ended up at Lawrence Academy, ho it helped his development and more.
NZ: How and when did you start playing hockey?
DB: I started playing hockey when I was about three when my family and I moved to Florida. I really fell in love with the game after I watched my older brother play when I was at a young age.
NZ: What’s your earliest memory from playing hockey?
DB: Definitely the first time skating with my brother. When you’re that young and you see someone that can actually skate, you think he’s the best player in the world.
NZ: What was your youth hockey experience like in Florida?
DB: Florida, believe it or not has produced some really good players so I was lucky enough to play with older kids that would eventually play DI, or major junior, and one that’s actually in the NHL now. Our coaches both played at Northeastern so they knew what it took to get to the next level and they pushed us really hard.
NZ: How did you end up at Lawrence?
DB: I was actually never even looking at Lawrence but the school I was at before, Cardigan Mountain School, had a really good relationship with them. My brother played at Brooks school so for me and my parents, we always figured I’d just go there. When acceptance letters came out, financially Brooks just wasn’t the right place for me but what I didn’t know was that going to Lawrence would end up being the best thing to ever happen to me.
NZ: How has playing there helped your game develop?
DB: Our school and coach [Robbie] Barker really pride themselves on their kids. The way you change, not only as a player but a person, is really top of the list in their eyes. In the hockey sense, coach wants our practices to be as college-like as possible to get us ready for the next level. So day in and day out you are battling for a spot and when you have kids that want it just as much as you do, you can’t take a day off and that really pays off. Although that is really easy for me to say, there’s no denying coach knows what he’s doing. If you look in the past three years, I think we have 10 or 11 kids going DI and that really shows how much we develop players to their full potential.
NZ: Take us through the NCAA recruitment process. What other schools were you talking to and where did you visit?
DB: My process was awesome at times, and like most people there were times when it seemed like nothing was going on. I toured a couple schools like UConn, UMass and Sacred Heart and also talked to some ECAC schools.
NZ: What made you decide to commit to Bentley? What went into that decision for you and your family to know it was the right place?
DB: Choosing Bentley for my parents and I was a no brainer. In our family, education and hockey go hand-in-hand, so it was really important that I would be set up for the future. And between the coaches, the new rink, the way the hockey program is trending there and the business school, Bentley had it all.
NZ: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while playing hockey?
DB: It has to be, one of my buddies when I was younger could switch from lefty to righty without missing a beat so that was pretty wild.
NZ: What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s given you in hockey?
DB: The best piece of advice I got was definitely control what you can control and the surrounding things will take care of themselves.
NZ: What are your best on-ice skills?
DB: I’m a good skater that has good size and is good with the puck. I can also play in all situations with an active stick.
NZ: What aspect of your game are you working on improving the most?
DB: The one aspect I’m trying to improve on is being more physical and playing the body in my own zone more. Using my size to my advantage and being hard to play against.
NZ: Is there a professional player you model your game after?
DB: I wouldn’t say I model my game after anybody but I like to watch young players like [Charlie] McAvoy.
NZ: Who’s been the biggest influence in your hockey career?
DB: I’ve had a lot of big influences in my career like my mom, who has been through everything with me and always had my back, and my dad. Also recently the people I got really close with at Lawrence like Craig Needham and Jack Cameron and obviously coach Barker. The biggest though would have to be my brother. He was really hard on me at an early age but it was all out of love. He was the first to tell me when I was doing well but also the first in my ear when I was throwing things away. He plays at Sacred Heart, so obviously he knew what it takes to reach the goals we grew up dreaming about and he was always there to help me.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?
DB: The toughest challenge I faced during hockey was for sure when I was in eighth grade still in Florida. Hockey really wasn’t going well because of how hard it was to develop after everyone moves up north. I was about done with hockey but then was lucky enough to go to Cardigan Mountain School, which helped my career dramatically.
NZ: What’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced in life?
DB: The toughest challenge I faced in my life was moving away from home when I was 14. It was obviously really hard not being with my family all the time but it really helped me mature and have experiences that most people just don’t get to have.