The timing couldn’t be better for Garrett Billings.
With his mom fighting brain cancer — she has already undergone surgery and one round of chemotherapy and radiation — Billings is back home in Langley full-time after the Vancouver Stealth acquired him via trade on Sunday.
“She’s doing as good as she can be,” he said. “It is just nice to be around.”
He has been back in Langley since the early summer, coming home when his mother was diagnosed.
The Stealth acquired the 29-year-old Billings from the New England Black Wolves in exchange for Tyler Digby and a second round pick in the 2017 National Lacrosse League draft. Digby’s stay with the Wolves didn’t last long, however, as he was sent back west to the Calgary Roughnecks in another trade.
“I’d kind of heard rumours about it for a while,” Billings said about the Stealth’s interest in the right-hander, who came through the Langley Minor Lacrosse Association ranks.
He played his junior lacrosse in Burnaby, winning a pair of Minto Cups as Canadian junior national champions. Billings also played senior A in the Western Lacrosse Association with the Langley Thunder, helping the team make an appearance in the Mann Cup finals in 2012.
“I didn’t really think it was going to happen, but Vancouver is where I really wanted to be and I couldn’t be happier,” Billings said.
Billings was a first round draft choice (sixth overall) pick of the Toronto Rock in the 2009 NLL draft, after completing four years with the University of Virginia field lacrosse team on scholarship.
In five seasons with Toronto, he accumulated 158 goals and 315 assists for 473 points in 78 games, an average of just over six points per game.
He is the first person in NLL history to post three consecutive 100-point seasons, which he did from 2012 to 2014).
Billings’ 2014 season ended a few games early after he blew out his knee. Once healthy, he was traded to New England last year and he posted five goals and 36 points in eight games.
Prior to getting hurt, no player in the NLL scored more than Billings’ 315 points from 2012 to 2014, with John Grant Jr. the nearest at 298 in that same span.
He was a finalist for most valuable player all three of those years and won the league’s sportsmanship award in both 2013 and 2014.
“Garrett brings great leadership to the offence,” said Stealth coach Dan Perreault.
“His lacrosse IQ is a tremendous asset for us. He is always looking to make his teammates better and puts them in great situations to score.”
Billings, a six-foot, 195-pound right-handed forward, joins an offence that scored 211 goals last season and returns their offensive core, except for Digby.
“I am joining a very deep team with some great players and with that comes great expectations,” Billings said.
“There is some pressure on me to perform well and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
“Adding someone of Garrett’s caliber to an already solid offensive unit is huge for us,” said Stealth president and general manager Doug Locker.
Locker said the team looked into acquiring Billings at the draft in September but could not finalize the deal.
“He brings in a different dimension to the weapons we already have and the fact that he is a local player is fantastic.”
And Billings is ready for the challenge of helping his hometown team.
“Now my goal is to not only help this team win, but be successful on the business side of things and get some more fans in the building,” he said.
“It’s a lacrosse market. If we win, they will be there.”
“In Vancouver, if you are not winning, people aren’t really going to support you. We need that pressure. We have to perform, it is on us.”
Billings will also work for the team as a community liaison.
The team opens training camp on Nov. 28 and host New England on Jan. 9 to open the 2016 season.