Draft Or No Draft - That Is Ballouchy's Question

Jan. 11, 2006

By Erin Hussey
SCU Athletic Media Relations

For most Santa Clara students, handing in their last fall quarter bluebook means a month free from tests and papers, but for junior soccer sensation and Morocco native Mehdi Ballouchy, it meant having to decided on one tough question: draft or no draft.

"It was a very difficult decision for him," head coach Cameron Rast said. "Mehdi weighed school in very heavily but I think he's going to be a top draft pick."

Ballouchy, or "Ballouch," as he's called by many of his Bronco teammates admits that entering the Major League Soccer draft was the furthest thing from his mind at the beginning of the 2005 soccer season.

"I never thought I was going to do this at the beginning of the season but at the end there was a lot of talk," Ballouchy said. In fact, it wasn't until after the devastating loss against Cal Berkley that Ballouchy really began thinking about the MLS.

"I was thinking about it (the game) way too much and two weeks after it, I was pretty depressed," Ballouchy said.

The game tied at 0-0 had gone into over time and Ballouchy was the last Bronco to attempt a penalty kick. Unfortunately his shot went just left of the goal and missed, handing the game to Cal 5-4. However, a pep talk from Coach Rast helped Ballouchy realize things could have been worse.

"Cam talked to me and said, `I missed the last p.k. in the final of the championships. What's worse?' I was like man, that's worse," Mehdi said. "He made me feel a lot better and from that time on I tried to find out what I could do and I felt like this year I have more leverage and more possibilities than if I stayed one more year."

But despite Ballouchy's early Bronco retirement, his time at SCU will remain with him as well as with his coaches and teammates.

"I've learned so much about myself, both soccer wise and school wise," Ballouchy said. "Soccer wise I've learned what I needed to do more of and what I needed to cut back on. School wise I've had such a great time and it is something I've always wanted to get done, so I will come back and finish."

When asked to describe Ballouchy, the words "creative" and "passionate" always seemed to come up.

"He loves soccer, loves to play soccer, is very passionate about the game," assistant coach Eric Yamamoto said. "You don't see a whole lot of players like Ballouchy who have this flare and creativity that just makes the game a whole lot of fun."

Coach Rast further explains Ballouchy's creativity as similar to a no look pass in basketball.

"Ballouchy has an awareness on the field and an unpredictability that keeps any team that you play against off balanced," Rast said. But Ballouchy's on-the-field talents are not the only things that will be missed.

"He knows what buttons to push so I will raise my game," teammate Peter Lowry said, referring to Ballouchy's leadership abilities as a captain.

"He is one of the hardest working players on the team and he's also been a very good leader, someone who the guys can trust and go to to improve their knowledge of the game," Rast furthered.

With all the awards Ballouchy has received this season including, WCC Player of the Year, MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist, First Team All WCC Selection, and pre-season All American, one would think his ego might be growing, but that is the furthest thing from the truth.

"I am grateful that I'm good at it (soccer), but I don't flatter myself," Ballouchy said. "I just love playing it." As for his creative and technical abilities he attributes his early days in Morocco playing with his friends and watching European players such as Roberto Baggio. As Ballouchy enters the 2006 MLS draft he claims he is already nervous but not hoping for any team in particular.

"I am just going out to play," he said.

While sad that Ballouchy will be leaving the Santa Clara University community early, his coaches and teammates all look forward to watching him play in the professionals.

"He's a passionate person," Lowry concluded. "He's a good guy and he deserves everything he is going to get."

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