I know there isn't the same hype around the collegiate game as a few years back, but I still thought it would be worth sharing some insight/analysis of some players seen at the SIgma showcase a month ago and information on a few players already committed to programs for 2018.
I will preface this the same as last year where Aaron Neilsen and I spent a full day at the event watching as many academies as possible and keeping an eye out for some players we had already heard about to see/confirm if there were as advertised. Of course, the main issue is seeing only the second day and gauging how much the players are putting into these exhibition games. However, one thing is for certain, every year when Sigma and Vaughan go head to head, they go all out and you really get to see a tight game.
If you look at the NCAA 2017 thread I think my review is still on page 1, so you'll note some of the players from last year remain as prospects up until today.
Up front, this was probably the best showcase we've seen yet, as this was an even better Sigma side in terms of player potential than last year, and this was the first time we saw real talent on a team outside of Sigma and Vaughan (Durham). Pretty much every game had a team with some interesting players to watch and assess.
Ok on to Sigma.
Two players from this 2000 / A1 team have already committed and I will make note as I run through key prospects.
This team was very well organized from the back and probably the most cohesive A1 team I've seen from back to front over the last four years. The centre back pairing were from the B1 team last year and they have come along nicely. Now that I'm looking at the team sheet I'm worried I'm mixing these two guys up. There is a shorter CB who is built like a brick sh*thouse, Dumebi Iheanacho who lead the back and was very solid. I don't know if his future is at CB because he is 5'9, but who knows, he could definitely be an RB. His parter, Cheikh Tchouambou, I feel was the star of the backline and because of his size (6'1), pace could be a future RB (I think he got L1O minutes at RB) or still be CB to keep an eye on. He has good ups and headed a corner off the woodwork in one of the matches.
At the time I wasn't sure how highly I rated him, but part of me thinks that #8/DM Mathew Kolakowski might have the biggest upside from this team, if only for his incredible work rate and constant tenacity on and off the ball. He's not a big kid but was fearless tracking down the ball, was smart getting into positions off the ball and tidy with his passing. He apparently has a reputation in training where no one wants to work with him because he's always going at 100%. Of course the only red flag is that surname HA HA :S
I would flag him as one to watch as he seemed like someone who will always be working harder and constantly striving to improve. I don't have any details on him yet, but was told there was a good chance he would have committed to a school once the showcase was over, so this is a name we should be hearing about with regards to a program.
The player it seemed like Sigma were very excited about was Hilli Goldhar, who has committed to Syracuse. The first match I saw him I didn't really notice to be honest, however, the second game against Vaughan he really stepped up and his attributes of tireless workrate, really good pace, and high technical ability were all on display. He wears #10 and had one moment where he took a free kick and bent it waist high around the wall to force the keeper into an diving save. His technical awareness is really high and should fit in well at Cuse.
Up top, striker Ivan Nikolic has committed to Akron, and while he didn't score any goals on this day, he was active up top, had good size where he still has room to fill out (as in he was a bit wirey) but par for course with Sigma was a very technical player with the ball at his feet, held it up well and distributed to his teammates.
I would expect the three guys not already committed to be off to good programs next year. Baj Mann (keeper) is 6'4 and didn't see much action but I remember him from last year as being pretty good, Justin Sotys also was a player who I feel likely will be in D1 next year as well.
We only watched one B1 game but will publicly make note of a kid named Jonothan Neil who looked pretty good as an attacker and created alot in the game we saw. Also I think it's a safe bet that Kofi Awuah might be Kwame's younger brother, so he'll be one to watch next year as well.
We only saw one match from Vaughan this year and I'm pretty sure Ryan Raposo, who has committed to Syracuse, was not playing. Not sure if people here are aware of him but many are pretty high on him as a future prospect.Unfortunately, the player I think who stood out the most for Vaughan I can't find out who he is!! There was a #11 who, when he had the ball at his feet, was VERY good at taking on players and scored the only goal against Sigma by pretty much tooling the LB and burying the chance he made for himself.
So finally, the last team/players of note were from Durham. This was a team who last year dominated their division and has a couple players who were off the charts in terms of goals. They played very well, usually starting slow with one striker up top alone, but as the two games proceeded, they really turned it on and brought heaps of attacking pressure. THis was clearly a team who have played together for some times as they were very much in sync and had many "Wooooooooooo" moments of flicks and tricks.
I made note of them last year and can now comment on having seen for myself. I will start by saying of the years I've gone to the showcase, easily the best individual talent seen was Duwayne Ewart. Now coming in second, for me, is O'Vonte Mullings. He didn't score any goals but his talent on and off the ball was the best I saw during the day. He always knew where to be, and any ball sent up to him he always made the right decision, whether it be a simple short pass back or off to the side, or take on his player 1v1 - I don't think I saw him turn over or be dispossessed in the two games I saw him. His best moment was taking down a crossfield long ball off his chest down to his feet, and with his back to a 6'+ CB closing him down, volleyed it over the defender, spun around him backdoor to pick up the ball and dribble it to the touch line to cross it into the 6yr box, which unfortunately was not converted. My one concern was his work rate, as it appeared to be pretty casual at times and can see NCAA coaches possibly flagging that as a negative. However, his skills are undeniable. I will fully concede that I had similar thoughts regarding Ewart and he has yet to advance his career, but do feel sometimes the right environment is everything and I hope we hear more from Mullings in the future.
Lastly, speaking of Ewart, his younger brother Dumari Ewart was very noticeable on this team as well. It was pretty unfortunate because he could have been the player of the showcase as in the day we saw him he created about 4-5 1v1 chances with the keeper and couldn't convert any of them. He had really good pace and was able to beat defenders from 20+ yards out to within the 18 for these chances... but it was not to be. However, he has alot to offer and could be a good winger for sure.
Apologies for the crazy length on this post but thought it would be useful to keep an eye on these guys as there were so many players I feel need to keep playing and could potentially turn pro. Finally, ESSU did a podcast on this showcase and interviewed Bobby Smyrniotis regarding the event - just skip to 30 min mark where Aaron and I discuss it or the 40 min mark for the interview. Thanks.