Addison Smith | Opinions Editor
There’s a player on the Duquesne men’s soccer team who doesn’t look like he belongs. He towers over his teammates and is strides ahead of them on the soccer pitch. To the naked eye, he looks like he belongs on the basketball court, but Kadeem Pantophlet doesn’t belong there, at least not anymore.
Pantophlet came to Duquesne from the Netherlands to play basketball under former men’s basketball Ron Everhart. However, after two seasons and two different coaches, Pantophlet was told his scholarship would not be renewed. He was given the option to stay with the team, but not play many minutes. Later on that day, Pantophlet found out he was officially let go from the team. The same day men’s basketball coach Jim Ferry made the call to cut the 6-foot-7 forward, Pantophlet was calling men’s soccer coach Chase Brooks, ready to relive the days of his childhood and the sport he loved for 16 years.
When basketball was brought up, the Dutchman shrugged, because for him soccer was his first love, but he wasn’t excelling as quickly as he wanted.
“I wasn’t really focused on American college sports when I played soccer,” Pantophlet said. “I just played soccer, but my goal was to play professional sports and for me, soccer was taking too long. I just kind of looked in a different direction and it was basketball.”
The day Pantophlet decided to try out for the men’s soccer team, he looked for support from team members Colin Phillips and Nick DiSomma. The three had been friends since their freshman year when they lived next door to each other in Towers, and Phillips and DiSomma knew of Pantophlet’s soccer talent early on.
“We’d gotten really close. As soon as the ordeal with the basketball team happened, [Pantophlet] came to talk to Nick [DiSomma] and I just about everything,” Phillips said. “Being good friends, we talked him through what his options were. He wanted to stay at the school for various reasons, but financially it was a burden now that his scholarship had been taken away from him.
“One of the options that we discussed with him, because we knew he played soccer and loves the sport, was, ‘we’ll talk to our coaches, you’ll come out to our sessions, maybe you’re good enough that the coaches will be willing to help subsidize the cost of attending here so you can stay with your friends and your girlfriend.’ It just ended up working out really well.”
Pantophlet said that there was a multitude of reasons he wanted to stay at Duquesne, but mainly because he wasn’t ready to transfer with two years remaining.
“I was two years into my education and I liked the school a lot,” Pantophlet said. “I didn’t feel like it would necessarily suit me to go somewhere else and start all over again. Obviously also because of the soccer situation, they were getting a new coach, I did see an option and it worked out.”
After his first spring soccer game, Pantophlet looked up at the sky as another one of his shots on goal narrowly missed the net. The spectators could tell that Pantophlet wanted to score, but none of them could truly tell why. For Pantophlet, when he was asked about those moments after the game, all he could say was that he wanted to prove himself as a member of the Duquesne men’s soccer team.
Now, a year and a half later, Pantophlet thinks he has proven himself as a competitor and leader for the Dukes.
“I’ve been around now for a year,” Pantophlet said with a grin. “What we were able to do last year because of the team we had, I think everyone played their part. I think I played my part. Obviously, I have a drive to get better all the time in whatever I do every day, so I just pushed myself so people expect what I do. I push myself to what I want, so that’s basically what it is.”
Even now, the former basketball player from the Netherlands gets exasperated and shows emotions on the field if things don’t go his way. Sometimes his passion and aggression get him into trouble on the field in the form of yellow cards, but Pantophlet has cared about soccer for as long as he can remember.
He reflected on his favorite soccer memory with a goofy smile on his face. He knew of his athletic prowess in the sport early on after scoring in the double digits as a young teenager.
“I liked playing with my friends back home when I was younger,” Pantophlet said. “This one game we won and I scored 16 times. I remember that game. That was such a fun day … I was 14 or 15 and just enjoying it back home with friends … I don’t know if I was being greedy or if it just worked out that way. I just happened to have the ball and I happened to be in front of the goal.”