The dilemma of choosing between playing academy soccer or for their school teams can be a tough one for most high school-aged soccer players. Academy typically has the highest-level players and droves of college scouts and coaches following kids’ careers, whereas high school soccer is more relaxed.
Oftentimes when players choose to play academy they don’t typically move back to their high school teams, even after some of them are lucky enough to receive scholarships. But when Ardrey Kell’s Zhuvonte Wilson committed to the Charlotte 49ers – a team which had been hot on his recruiting trail since the eighth grade – he told the 49ers’ program he’d do so only if he could leave his North Mecklenburg Academy team and play for Ardrey Kell before his junior season.
“There’s nothing like playing with your friends that you go to school with, eat lunch with or see in the hallways everyday,” he said. “You’re playing with your classmates, it’s different from club. It’s all about having fun.
“It makes the days go by faster, especially when people say, ‘Hey, you had a good game last night,’ or say they saw you play.”
That happened a lot to Wilson, as in two years he rewrote the Ardrey Kell record book and set the Knights’ new standard for goals scored in a season (31 this year) and career (64).
Along the way, Wilson was twice named to the all-conference team, was a N.C. Soccer Coaches’ Association all-state selection and now is the 2013 Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s 2013 Southern Mecklenburg Boys Soccer Player of the Year. It’s an honor coach Kim Montgomery believes Wilson is more than deserving of.
“He has amazing vision, and he’s just a higher level player,” said Montgomery, who is in her second season with the Knights. “He’s able to see three plays ahead. He’s so creative with the ball at his feet and his ability to take people one-on-one is superior to everybody on the field.
“He’s such a thinker and a creator, it’s hard to find other people on the field who can keep up with him. His first two or three steps are amazing, his ability to take people on is amazing. He’s just a great player.”
Wilson spent much of his childhood in Japan, a country he re-visited last summer. He said he wasn’t very good on the field growing up, but after coming to the United States he began to hone his skills.
Now when he watches professional games on TV, he often dissects the game by focusing on one player. He can pick up the nuances and intricate details of how the player moves or how they get open – a skill which will help him on the next level.
After taking his final exam last week, Wilson is leaving early to enroll at UNC Charlotte and join the 49ers’ soccer program, getting a leg up both athletically and academically.
“I’m excited for the competition and the obstacles that lie ahead of me,” Wilson said of his early enrollment. “I’m ready for better training, a better environment athletically, academically and all around.”
But, Montgomery said, Wilson will be missed on the field and in the Ardrey Kell hallways.
“He’s not a typical teenage boy,” Montgomery said. “He never gets in trouble, he puts his family first, he’s never been late to class, there’s probably not one teacher who doesn’t think he’s fantastic. It’s not just what he does on the field.
“David Switzer, our principal, doesn’t just throw out compliments and it takes a lot to impress him, but Zhuvonte’s on the top of his list. One day he looked at me and said ‘He’s just a really good kid, isn’t he?’ I said ‘Yep, he is.’”
“Zhuvonte’s going to be dearly missed,” Montgomery continued. “He’s a very mature, pretty special kid and it’s not just on the soccer field.”