The Pitt men’s soccer team hasn’t beaten an ACC opponent in four years of conference play, but the Panthers’ fortunes might soon change.
Pitt received a verbal commitment Wednesday from forward Kizza Edward, one of the most prized prospects in the country. Edward, part of the prestigious Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy in Florida, is ranked as the No. 41 recruit in the 2017 class according to the website Top Drawer Soccer.
Edward is a Uganda native who spent his first year of high school at Carlisle School in Martinsville, Virginia. He then transferred to Montverde prior to his sophomore season and joined the SIMA program, which is separate from the boys’ varsity soccer team.
Athletes in the SIMA program play a regular high school schedule from November through January and train during the other 10 months of the year, all while studying full-time at Montverde.
According to Montverde head coach Mike Potempa, Edward considered several other Division I programs — including ACC schools Clemson and Wake Forest — before choosing the Panthers.
“He’s a fantastic kid in every way. He’s a fantastic student, a wonderful human being … and he’s a very good striker,” Potempa said. “He’s the all-around package as a person and student-athlete.”
Last season, Edward scored 25 goals while leading Montverde to a 20-0-1 record and the SIMA Winter FAB 50 National Title.
Potempa repeatedly pointed to Edward’s leadership skills as his strongest asset, both on and off the pitch. Edward is the senior prefect at Montverde, making him the de facto leader of the entire senior class, not just the soccer team.
“The school awards prefect leadership positions. It’s a very prestigious position at the school,” Potempa said. “As a junior, you interview with the faculty and staff to try to get a leadership position. They choose one overall to lead the school, and Kizza is our prefect leader. He’s a great ambassador — he’s just a great kid.”
Edward didn’t see much playing time his first year at Montverde as a sophomore, but Potempa said he’s been a key player on the team the last two years.
“I think his first year here, he was a little overwhelmed by the level of players we have here. It’s very competitive compared to what he was used to,” Potempa said. “He’s one I admire because he took it as more of a challenge. He didn’t complain if he wasn’t in games or wasn’t part of a top level group.”
Although the SIMA program has seen several players go on to successful college and professional careers, Potempa didn’t hesitate to rank Edward as one of the best players he’s ever coached and believes his career could continue beyond the NCAA.
“I’ve seen his ability to score goals improve, but his understanding of the game and learning to play in proper positions has also improved,” Potempa said. “With his natural ability as well as what we’ve given him over the last three years, [I think] he’s a professional player when his time is done there, whenever it may be.”
Edward is Pitt’s ninth prospect to verbally commit to the 2017 class, joining Colin Brezniak, Joshua Gaspari, Glenn Muenkat, Javi Perez, Marcony Pimentel, Chad Stout, Timmy Townsend and Andrew Walczyk.