Watch Nate Kabiri play for a half – actually, a quarter should do it – and you realize pretty quickly that there’s something special there.
The make-you-miss shiftiness and change-of-direction ability jump off the page, and if you leave him open on the wing, there’s a good chance that your top corner is about to get burnt out from one of his patented low-to-high screamers. He can take your best defenseman to X and leave him cross-checking air pretty quickly. Kabiri can start tossing out assists like a basketball point guard, too, so he’s one of those players that’s so balanced that you just kind of hope that he has a bad day against you.
Two Elite Teams for an Elite Player
That talent has been evident for some time now. He suits up for the MadLax DC Dogs, NLFRankings.com’s No. 4 team in the 2023 class, but for a while, he plied his craft by playing up a grade for the Annapolis Hawks 2022 team. That team’s our No. 1 team in the class, and when he played there, Kabiri gave team fits out of the midfield.
Both have had a significant impact on his game.
“My Hawks coaches, Tom Ripley, Dave Cottle and Brian Wood, had high expectations for everyone,” Kabiri said. “They pushed everyone to be their best and everyone came out as the best player they could be. We practiced three days a week in Annapolis, so it was kind of a commute, but Coach Cottle emphasized 1v1s every day, which helped me a lot.”
“The main motto was, ‘you make your teammates better,’ and all of those guys were really good,” Kabiri continued. “I got used to playing against all of them. With Hawks and when I started playing with the Dogs, I played midfield and they’d ask me to take the ball to X and invert. With my change of direction, I could get a shot off or draw a slide if I dodged hard.”
The thing with a player like Kabiri is that leaving him on the field all game long makes him an even more dynamic threat. The Dogs’ coaching staff smartly rounded out a beastly attack line by shifting Kabiri to attack to play alongside NLF No. 18 Colin Burns (Georgetown Prep, Md.) and No. 27 Caulley Deringer, Kabiri’s teammate at Episcopal (Va.).
The results have been absolutely terrible for MadLax’s opponents.
“We all have great chemistry together,” Kabiri said. “Every one of us can take a good matchup, every one of us can dodge and we’re looking for each other. We can all cut off-ball, too. Switching to attack has helped me make a larger impact. I feel like my shot got better at attack and I got off some much better shots. Playing with Burns and Caulley has helped me a lot.”
Episcopal doesn’t start its season until April 22, when Kabiri and Deringer will square off with their attack linemate in Burns. Expecting sophomores to have a major impact can sometimes backfire, but Kabiri has the skill set, poise and composure to help lead the Saints to a huge season. This summer, he’ll be tasked with helping the Dogs compete for an NLF National Championship on July 16-18.
No matter where you line him up, Kabiri is a walking mismatch for any defender looking to cover him.
“My Dogs coaches have pushed me just as hard, and they didn’t change my game, but they made me fully see what I was capable,” Kabiri said. “My confidence went up a little because of it.”
Just what opposing defenses wanted to hear.