Baldwin grad named PAC player of year
Ever since he began his college career, Arkangelo James has been one of the top soccer players not only on the Bethany College men's team, but also in the NCAA Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference.
Now he has the hardware to prove it.
James, a junior forward and Baldwin High School graduate, was named the PAC's Men's Soccer Player of the Year, as voted on by conference coaches.
“It was a surprise to me. It was a great honor to get that, even though we were having a bad season and our team didn't make it to the playoffs,” said James, showing his team-first mentality as he discussed the Bison's 5-12-1 overall record this year.
Bethany head head coach Sean Regan said the local product was more than deserving of the honor.
“Ark had a fantastic year,” Regan said. “He's always been one of the top players in the conference since his freshman year.
“This year, he put in a lot of extra time and effort with summer conditioning and training, working hard on his technique.”
James turned in impressive performances from the first time he stepped on the field at Bethany.
As a freshman in 2010, the local athlete generated 43 points on 18 goals and seven assists, and earned first-team All-PAC honors.
Last year as a sophomore, he turned in another impressive campaign with 28 points on 12 goals and four assists, and again was an all-conference selection.
This season, it was a third straight standout performance as James netted 41 points on 18 goals and five assists, and reeled in all-conference honors once again.
More than just eye-opening statistics, though, was that James transitioned into a more complete soccer player this year.
He was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where soccer is much more of a mainstream sport. He began playing soccer at age 6, and continued to excel when his family moved to Baldwin five years later.
During high school and the early part of his collegiate career, James relied on natural talent and athletic ability to carry him.
“He's always been a fantastic athlete,” Regan said. “This year, he put the work in to become a better all-around player.”
It's not just on the soccer field where James has evolved.
By his own admission, he did not approach academics properly when he first arrived at Bethany.
“My academics are much better than when I first got here,” said James, a physical education major. “In high school, sports were my first priority. It can't be that way here; this is determining my future.
“I have to work on my education first, and sports come after.”
Regan said he and the Bethany coaching staff are even more impressed with James' academic turnaround than his soccer excellence.
“As a student-athlete, he's turned it around big time,” said the coach. “He didn't prioritize education very much at all, and throughout high school, he had his struggles.
“His first year (at Bethany), we had to teach him soccer wasn't the main thing. We had to get him to get through it academically. It took him a year or so, and as soon as he understood that, he went to extra study sessions and things like that, and it turned around big-time.
“Now he's on pace to be the first person from his family to graduate.”
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.