UCLA incoming freshman Abu Danladi has been selected as the 2013-14 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year, as announced by the organization today. Danladi was surprised with the news at Dunn High School by former MLS All-Star Alecko Eskandarian, who earned Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year honors in 1999-00.
“Abu really deserves to be this year’s Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year because he embodies everything the award stands for,” said Eskandarian. “Not only has Abu excelled on the field, but he’s also a stellar student and is a positive influence in the community. I’m excited to follow his career and watch all the things he will accomplish in the future.”
Danladi has attended Dunn High School (Los Olivos, Calif.) for four years (2011-14), earning four letters in soccer. He is ranked No. 22 on College Soccer News’s list of Top 150 Recruits for 2014 and is also ranked as the No. 29 club player in the country by Top Drawer Soccer. In 2012 and 2013, Danladi earned All-CIF honors and has been named the team MVP three years in a row (2012-14). This season, the senior forward scored 25 goals and passed for 15 assists, leading Dunn (9-3-2) to the Southern Section Division VI Tournament. Off the field, Danladi has maintained a 3.13 GPA in the classroom and has volunteered locally at a nature reserve as a youth soccer coach and a summer camp counselor. Danladi will join UCLA this fall as a part of the nation's top-ranked recruiting class.
Outside of high school, Danladi competed for the Santa Barbara Soccer Club and led Santa Barbara SC to a number six national ranking. He served as a guest player for the South Coast Strikers in the summer of 2012 as well, playing for the club at the 2012 Milk Cup in Northern Ireland. At the tournament, Danladi was the second-leading scorer, scoring seven goals, including four against Tottenham Hotspur’s academy team. In addition, he is a graduate of Ghana’s Right to Dream program, which helps young men from Ghana further their education with opportunities in the United States and other countries.
This is the third time that an incoming UCLA freshman has earned the award in soccer, as Jordan Harvey (2001-02) and Chris Henderson (1988-89) both received the honor in past years. Harvey is now a defender in MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps while Henderson serves as the Sporting Director with Seattle Sounders FC.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the court, distinguishes Danladi as the nation’s best high school boys soccer player. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Danladi from more than 400,000 high school boys soccer players nationwide. Danladi is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.