The Draft: Anibaba
If you’re going to be an MLS SuperDraftee, it might be a good idea to get one of those unlimited phone plans.
“My phone was blowing up. I probably had 150 text messages and 55 missed calls,” said Jalil Anibaba about the cellular bombardment he received following his ninth overall selection by the Chicago Fire in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.
Having gone through the 45-minute pomp and circumstance of giving a “thank you” speech, doing interviews, hugging the family and meeting all the club dignitaries, the University of North Carolina product had to take a moment at the Baltimore Convention Center to sift through all the communications in search of one person.
“The first person I called was my step brother Josh [Reese] who wasn’t there because he had finals back in California. He’s my best friend and I just wanted to express my excitement and thank him for always being there for me.”
After the call, the 2011 Combine MVP had the chance to reflect on everyone that had reached out to congratulate him on making the next step in his career.
“You would think the calls and messages would make me think ‘I’ve made it this is great’. For me though it was more of, ‘Oh wow, I’m really from an amazing community’. I’m surrounded by amazing people who care about me and that are willing to express their happiness for me. It made me realize how thankful I am for the people that are in my life.”
A product of Davis, Calif who also spent the first three years of his collegiate career at Santa Clara University, it’s a well-known fact that players born and bred in the Golden State wouldn’t mind also playing the game at home. During the anticipation of being selected, Anibaba said he went through a “melting pot of emotions” however he made a conscious decision not to be hopeful for a team based on geography.
“I knew better that that,” he said about hopes of being selected by a California-based club. With the draft process you have to be ready to acclimate yourself wherever you end up. For me I was just hoping for a good situation, one that would allow me to learn as much as possible and grow as a player and human being. I can definitely say I got the best situation out there with the Fire.”
Anibaba would go on to great things with the Fire in 2011 in 2011, setting the club’s rookie record in appearances (29) and minutes (2,508) while tallying two goals and one assist during regular season play. His “improbable, impossible” 40-yard blast in an early season U.S. Open Cup qualifying victory over Colorado was voted as the team’s “Goal of the Year” by the club’s supporters.
Having gone through a whole year of being a professional, what advice might Anibaba bestow upon former Tar Heal teammates Enzo Martinez or Lombard, Ill product Kirk Urso ahead of Thursday’s SuperDraft?
“Once they’ve been picked, I would tell them first and foremost to continue to work hard. This profession, most if not all, is about merit, what you do with the opportunities that you’ve earned. Have an open mind as far as the process is concerned because there are a lot of variables that players can’t control. Finally, just take time to reflect and have fun. You only go through this once and it goes by super fast. Before they know it they’ll be doing interviews just like these.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.