2008 has been an incredibly active year when it comes to college recruiting news. I have not done it justice in terms of recognizing the opportunities the players in this region have created for themselves. The most difficult challenge is pursuing a Division I opportunity. The two most recent decisions in that area come from one team – Springfield SC. Devon Newport and Graham Basecke both recently made verbal commitments to a pair of storied Division I programs.
Devon, pictured on the left, accepted an offer from the St Louis University Billikens in late February. Graham, on the right, accepted an offer from the Indiana Hoosiers in early April. The last player from this region to play for SLU is the KC Wizards Jack Jewsbury (Kickapoo), a decade ago, while Graham is the second regional player to be accepted into a Big 10 program following Rachel Lavoy (Kickapoo 2006) who is a Purdue Boilermaker. I can’t do justice to the quality of either of these programs if you are unaware of their place in the record books. Indiana University has won 4 national titles in the past 10 years, the last in 2003 and 2004, and is the only team with multiple titles in that period. SLU has won 9 titles, more than any other program, sports an Overall Record of 652-179-80 and has made 43 NCAA Tournament Appearance, the last in 2006 when they lost to Big 10 foe Northwestern in the 2nd Round.
I sat down with the two players recently, after a game in St Louis against Pacesetter Premier (Ohio North) in the Midwest Regional League. When I arrived at halftime on that cold dreary Sunday (two weekends ago) the boys were losing 0-3, a very uncharacteristic position for them. They proceeded to take Coach Cory Carr’s words to heart (are you a player? or a poser?) and storm back to win 4-3. You can see pictures of the game here. They are currently top of the table in the U17 Red Premier Division with a 4-0-1 record and two games remaining.
The boys begin play this weekend in the Missouri State Cup where they are defending State Champions in their age group (birth year 1991/1992). A repeat title in Cup, or finishing first in their Division of the MRL, will send them to Regionals for the second straight year.
All of these facts are pertinent to the conversation I had with these young men. They have been teammates and close friends since beginning play together on the Pershing team as sixth graders. That has continued with their play for the Glendale Falcons and most importantly, the Springfield SC U17 squad. The teams success on a national level, reaching the semifinals in Region II last year, was the catalyst for exposing them to the programs. While both college programs have strong St Louis roots (Indiana Coach Mike Freitag is a CBC graduate and former All-American player for IU) and both were noticed at State Cup last year by SLU Coach Dan Donigan, it has been the opportunity to play against programs from across the country, at Disney, Dallas Cup and through the MRL, that has allowed the boys to test themselves against the best and created the opportunities that have now presented themselves.
I generally attempt to understand the process a player went through during their recruiting cycle, so that we can all learn more about the process. For these two, it has been about the game. The recruiting cycle itself was a very stressful process, a necessary requirement to achieve their stated goal at playing at the highest level possible. Both Devon and Graham have professional aspirations. As Carl Rose recently shared with me, Devon indicated that to him as a 5 year old and Carl has had nary a doubt since that it has a good chance of happening. That is what led to an early decision, with offers, coaches and programs they have confidence in. Devon will continue as an attacking midfield player and Graham as a holding or central midfield player.
While both of them have achieved personal goals with these decisions, the commitment to the team goals remain paramount. Neither of them feels they have sacrificed anything in terms of friendships, school activities or other areas despite the long hours of training and travel to compete nationally. And it stems from the fact that this is a band of brothers that should graduate every member of the team to a quality collegiate program. And reaching the Region II competition is the next step. I’ll report from St Louis next weekend (May 3-4) on their progress. In the meantime, here’s a little treat…
The Pershing Generals, coached by Bob Jordan, take on the Cherokee Chiefs in a mid-season game on October 18, 2004. The Pershing team features current Springfield SC teammates Devon (xx), Graham (xx), Ian Newport, Ryan Partch, Ryan Squires and xxx on Pershing as well as Ryan Moses (xx), Tyler Bennett and xx for Cherokee. You can also see Skyler Russell (#10, Cherokee)
Give me a hand folks and identify all of the players for us 🙂