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Kiefer nets nation’s No. 10 class

Not a bad job for USF men’s soccer coach George Kiefer’s first try at a recruiting class.

Talk to men’s soccer coach Kiefer about his No. 10 ranked recruiting class, and you will notice that he is quick to downplay the significance of such high pre-season praise.

Certainly, Kiefer is excited about the rankings published by College Soccer News. But more important for the former University of Connecticut assistant is the role his returning players will have in improving their 11-7 (6-5 C-USA) 2002-03 campaign.

Keifer said his squad’s aptitude to effectively incorporate the incoming talent with the existing veteran core is pivotal for success.

“The big thing is that we get good leadership out of the guys who are here now,” he said. “It’s important that, from our first meeting, the older guys set the tone for the new guys.”

The newer guys will have to realize that their past resumes mean little on the high-intensity pitch of Division I ball.

“Our recruits have big-time resumes, but that gets thrown out of the window, and they start new here,” Kiefer said.

Indeed, the accolades are abundant within Kiefer’s first recruiting class at USF.

The new Bulls boast three national team players, including USA’s Kareem Smith, a defender from the under-18 team.

The two others are Jamaica’s Kevin King and Keeron Benito of Trinidad.

Other highlights from this year’s class that are expected to make an immediate impact are junior college All-American Erwin Suarez of Bolivia and Indiana Player of the Year, and two-time high school All-American, Blake Sharpe.

This list ranked them ahead of the 55 recruiting classes from the 64 in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.

Eddie Bettega, Ryan Kinsley and Adham Rashwan, were all members of the Olympic Development Program and are now members of the Bulls.

Kiefer also recruited a possible replacement to Troy Perkins, who left the team earlier this summer.

Goaltender Peter Lechak from Hartford, Conn., is a transfer from Keifer’s old squad at Connecticut.

Completing his first recruiting class, Kiefer also brings in Palm Beach Post Player of the year Drew Helm.

“Kiefer’s eye for talent is part of the reason that he is such a great recruiter,” UConn head coach Ray Reid said in a news release.

As is often the case, a highly touted recruiting class serves to entice other top-notch players to commit to a particular program. Kiefer hopes this trend holds true for the Bulls.

“Rankings are a great recruiting tool to send to (high school) juniors and seniors,” Kiefer said. “As far as (the rankings) implications, I don’t think they affect us much outside of (help with) future recruiting.”

Finally, Kiefer credits his veteran players with help in drawing such a first-rate incoming class.

“The biggest positive of our good recruiting class is that it shows that our returners want good players,” Kiefer said. “I would more like to thank the guys who were here for wanting to embrace new talent rather than shying away from the competition.”