Abu Danladi comes from a country where almost 30 percent of the population lives in poverty and where dreams too often die, so the magnitude of being named Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year today was not lost on the Dunn School (Los Olivos, Calif.) senior.
“This takes my breath away,” said Danladi, 18, a UCLA commit. “Coming here from Ghana and achieving something big like this is truly a dream come true. It’s not me who did this, it’s all the people around me who got me here.”
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound senior forward scored 25 goals and passed for 15 assists this past season, leading the Earwigs (9-3-2) to the Southern Section Division VI Tournament. Dunn’s three-time team MVP, Danladi is also a two-time CIF Southern Section Division VI First Team selection and is ranked as the nation’s No. 22 recruit in the Class of 2014 by College Soccer News.
“It’s incredible to be a part of this and help pass the torch to a generation of future stars like Abu,” said former MLS Cup MVP Alecko Eskandarian, won the Gatorade award in 2000 and now coaches for the New York Cosmos in the NASL. “You can tell that he’s something special, and when you look at all the names of the players who are part of the Gatorade Player of the Year family, that makes sense.”
Danladi, 18, has maintained a GPA of 3.13 in the classroom. A native of Ghana and a scholarship student at Dunn, he has lived with a local host family since his arrival in 2011. Danladi has volunteered locally at the Rancho Alegre outdoor education center as well as the UCSB Sedgwick Nature Reserve. He has also donated his time on behalf of the U2U Fundraiser for Haiti, orphanages in his home country and as an American Youth Soccer Organization coach.
“Abu is an electric forward who has the pace and intelligence to stretch the game,” said UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo. “His raw pace [within] our attack will add a different dimension. He is not only a wonderful player, but a great person who brings out the best in everyone around him.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Danladi is now a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award. USA TODAY High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
Danladi is the 61st prep athlete from California to win national Gatorade honors in any sport, more than any other state in the award’s 29-year history. He joins a distinguished list of national-winner alumni from the Golden State, including NBA All-Star Jrue Holiday (Campbell Hall, North Hollywood), who won in 2008, Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix (Los Angeles Baptist, North Hills), the 2003 winner in track, and three-time Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh (Archbishop Mitty, San Jose), who won in 1996.
Danladi also becomes only the third foreign national to win Gatorade’s national boys soccer award. He is preceded by countryman and 2012 California winner Ema Boateng (Cate School, Carpinteria), now with Helsingborgs IF in Sweden’s First Division, along with Columbian-born Luis Rendon (Cosby, Midlothian), the 2011 Virginia winner and a current U.S. Under-20 National Team member.
Texas, with 28, followed by Florida (20) and Illinois (15) have produced the next-most Gatorade national winners.