During every off-season, there is always a sense of intrigue as to where high school standouts will take their talents to the collegiate level. In this day and age, players are more empowered in terms of making choices for themselves while schools seek the best talent possible to win championships.
For Brando Soliman of University of Santo Tomas, he is set to take a path less taken by most. While most of his peers and those before him sought local opportunities, he is set to take his talents to the USA.
“I’m actually committed na to a (NCAA) Division 2 school in the States, Tiffin University in Ohio,” said the one-and-done standout from Angeles City in Pampanga.
“I got found by an agency while I was playing in a tournament here in the Philippines. They sponsored me all the way there to where I’m at now. I officially committed December before the UAAP season and then I verbally committed na, officially to the public, second week of January.”
Tiffin University competes in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC) in the NCAA Division II. The Dragons are coached by Rudy Brownell, who also graduated from the school back in 1996.
Under Brownell’s program, Tiffin is a one-time G-MAC Regular Season Champion, two-time G-MAC Tournament Champion, three-time GLIAC Regular Season Champion, and four-time GLIAC Tournament Champion.
He has also led the Dragons to six NCAA Regional Appearances and all those championships won have come in 10 of the last 14 campaigns.
“Coach Rudy Brownell, he’s been the coach for the past 20 years,” added Soliman. “They’ve been a consistent top 20 (school) in the NCAA Division II. I’ll be coming in as an international prospect.”
On the side of UST coach Marjo Allado, he couldn’t be happier that one of the players under his program has earned a chance to make it abroad.
It is not every day that a local high school player receives a scholarship in America and Allado hopes that Soliman makes the most out of his rare chance.
“Before the season, nag-decide na siya na itutuloy niya sa States ,yung academics niya and yung football niya,” said Allado. “For us naman, it’s a good opportunity for him eh. Anytime pag gusto niya mag UST next time, welcome naman siya. Happy nga kami… Good opportunity for him para ma-expose pa siya more kase yung football dun sa States iba naman.
“Dito kasi sa UST, first time niya mag-ano, yung team talaga, yung match preparation the day before the match. Siguro yung mga dadalhin niya dun yung na-practice niya dito.
“Second, pagdating naman sa skills, first time niya maglaro ng right wing eh kasi yung laro niya talaga was right back. Sabi ko introduce naman in yung right wing sa yo. So far in the UAAP, ok naman siya. Hopefully, mag-improve pa siya dun kasi, of course in the US, maraming magagaling na coaches, ma-ga-guide din siya,” he continued.
Soliman was a key member of UST’s Season 85 campaign that saw the Junior Golden Booters earn a bronze medal finish. While he and his teammates would have loved to compete in the finals, they fell short amidst the team coming back from the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Now, he will look to fulfill his dreams of becoming a professional football player and perhaps suit up for the Philippine Azkals down the line.
“The plan is to play pro in Thailand. That’s always been the plan. Everything has been built on baby steps. I come from Pampanga. It’s not really a football province,” said the former Laos youth player.
“The first goal was to just make a UAAP team. Second was to get called up to the national team, which I got called up to camp earlier this year for the U20 during the AFC qualifiers.”
In the immediate future, though, the 18-year-old midfielder has another objective he wants to achieve.
“Hopefully, just get called up for the SEA Games.”