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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Scanning storylines on soccer's signing day

By Sheldon Shealer

It’s the Big Day for thousands of athletes across the country. Some sign their Letter of Intent in front of television cameras. Some sit at a table in their high school gym. Some on the kitchen counter between mom and dad. It is equally special for all of them, and today is filled with stories and accomplishments for athletes nation-wide.

We’ve scanned the ESPNHS Class of 2012 NCAA Division I Verbal Commitment List and highlighted a few stories of note to kick off Signing Day.

Still On The Board

Soccer tends to resemble high school baseball when it comes to college national signing. After all, several projected top college prospects bypass the college game and head straight into the professional ranks. From the Class of 2012 ESPNHS 150, that’s certainly the case. Cris Hernandez, from New Jersey via Mexico, is the top-rated, uncommitted player. However, he told ESPNHS in October that he will sign a professional contract instead of pursing college. As players sign pro contracts, they are removed from the ESPNHS 150, since that list is for projected college players.

Among the top players still uncommitted, three of them are currently in Florida. Nico Melo and Felipe Oliveira of the Florida Rush had not reached a decision as of Wednesday morning, according to their club coach Nate Omodt. According to Omodt, Melo is leaning toward North Carolina, but a number of ACC programs remain in the running. Oliveira was choosing from a wider range of programs. In addition to Melo and Oliveira, Marlon Hairston, a Mississippi native currently at IMG Academy, also was undecided, although club contacts indicate a lean toward Louisville.

Even with those committed, there remain questions -- perhaps none as significant as Texas native Alfred Koroma. The Youth National Team standout has committed to Akron, however, he will have professional opportunities in the near future. As one source close to Akron said, “We’ll be holding our breath and hoping he shows up in August.”

Know Your Geography

Detroit-Mercy has seven commitments for the Class of 2012. Three are from Michigan, and one international player who resides closer to the campus than almost all of them -- Alex Mendonca, who lives in Canada. Mendonca, from nearby Belle River, Ontario, plays club soccer in the U.S. with the CSA Wolves. He lives less than 30 miles from Detroit-Mercy. Only Vincente Jaramillo lives closer, 17 miles from campus.

Close to Home

Last year, Florida Gulf Coast pulled in a recruiting class from all over the world. This year, all seven FGCU commitments live in Florida. FGCU’s Class of 2012 haul is in stark contrast to last year when it landed one player from Ohio and then one each from Costa Rica, Canada and Greece.

Sticking with the close to home theme, George Mason’s 10-player recruiting class features nine players from Virginia and seven of them are from Northern Virginia, a virtually stone’s throw from campus.

Local Ties

College coaches -- especially assistants -- frequently are on the move professionally. However, many maintain their past contacts. Take for example these unique recruiting situations:

Creighton lands McAmos Paye from Raleigh, N.C. Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich formerly coached at North Carolina.

IUPUI picks up transfer Momudu Sluwar from Pennsylvania. IUPUI coach Isang Jacob previously coached at Penn State.

Oakland University’s recruiting coordinator is a former Junior College coach in the Midwest, therefore it’s no surprise that half of Oakland’s incoming crop will be JuCo transfers.

On Hold

While college recruiting is largely conducted through the club system, there are a few exceptions. Perhaps the most notable this year is Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.), a private school near Orlando, Fla., filled with international players who represent the high school and also play together as a club team. Six seniors have committed to NCAA Division I programs. Three others have either professional or Division I opportunities, which will be finalized in the upcoming weeks. According to the school’s soccer coach and athletic director Mike Potempa, the school is delaying its signing celebration until next week since the hosting of high-profile high school soccer and high school basketball tournaments have taken “a ton out of the school.” Donte Brangman, David Graydon and Jair Minors are expected to sign with Saint Louis. Henrique Novaes and Joao Ramalho will sign with East Tennessee State and Luis Fernando Vega has committed to Florida Gulf Coast.