As Vancouver Whitecaps FC move closer to embarking on their new era as a Major League Soccer club, whitecapsfc.com's Carl Valentine takes time to speak with 2011 MLS SuperDraft selection Bilal Duckett.
The University of Notre Dame product was Vancouver's pick at the start of the third round (37th overall) in this year's SuperDraft. We learn more about the 22-year-old and his pathway to joining the MLS new boys from his native Atlanta, Georgia.
Q - Where were you born?
A - In Peachtree City, Georgia. It's a small suburb about an hour-and-a-half from Atlanta. We then moved to Atlanta when I was five years old.
Q - Is this where you played your club soccer? If so, what was that like?
A - Yes, it was. I played my club soccer for AC Lighting, where I was pretty much a defender. I started out as a sweeper at age 12, then was moved to right fullback and mostly played there throughout my high school and college career. I played a little bit of central and outside midfield, but my primary position was always as an outside back.
Q - You are listed at 6-foot-2. Were you tall as a youngster?
A - Not really. As a freshman in high school, I was 5-foot 4-and-a-half and 98 pounds.
Q - Are your parents tall?
A - No, they are around 5-foot-10 and they nicknamed me the Avatar. I am head and shoulders above my parents in family pictures and no one knows where I got it from. Nobody in my immediate family is very tall.
Q - How did you end up at the University of Notre Dame?
A - I was recruited by the Fighting Irish and I did not know where it was on the map. I started looking into it and it felt like a good fit. Academics were important to my family, as well as spirituality. With the athletics, it gave me a good balance of all three. I am majoring in IT Management and plan on graduating in May.
Q - What was the MLS SuperDraft experience like for you?
A - It was stressful and very long. They only showed the first round on TV, so my dad and I watched on the computer. My mum got bored and went downstairs to do some work, so when Vancouver drafted me, I was a little surprised. They had not interviewed me at the MLS Player Combine, but I could not be happier with the outcome so far.
Q - Fellow SuperDraft pick Jeb Brovsky was also at Notre Dame with you. Has having a Fighting Irish teammate helped you to settle in Vancouver?
A - Yes, we both are in a new experience, and it is good to bounce off each other, like we have for the last four years. We can be brutally honest with each other and not just say what the other wants to hear. That has been helpful.
Q - What has been the experience so far this preseason?
A - At college, you are forced to become a family, but I had heard horror stories regarding the professional level and it being way more cut throat. Yet, our veterans here have been great. Jonathan Leathers and Wes Knight, who I could be competing with for the right fullback position, have pulled me aside and given me pointers. Center backs Jay DeMerit and Greg Janicki have taught me that position, having not had much experience playing as a center back.
Q - Any superstitions?
A - Not really, I am more religious than superstitious, so I guess my superstitions would be religious based. I pray before every game.