John Gilkerson has dropped out of Winthrop and reported to Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls.
Gilkerson, a two-time All-Big South Conference first-team defender, was taken by the Red Bulls in the third round of the recent supplemental draft. Teammate Saidi Isaac, the 2006 Big South player of the year, was taken by the New England Revolution in the third round of the supplemental draft as well.
"John is the best athlete I've ever coached in my 29 years and Isaac is one of the top goal-scorers I have had the opportunity to coach," coach Rich Posipanko said in a statement. "He has natural-born ability. He will play somewhere in that league."
Gilkerson flew to New York on Jan. 26. The team will practice at Giants Stadium for 10 days and then fly to Los Angeles for additional practice before heading to Austria for a series of games.
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Gilkerson finished with three goals and four assists in his career as a defender and played a big part in the Eagles' defense that ranked among the nation's best in 2006 and 2007. He was named to the NSCAA/adidas All-South Atlantic Region Team in 2006 and 2007 and played for the Virginia Beach Submariners of the PDL in summer 2007. He was named to the Eastern Conference All-Conference Team of the PDL.
As far as future academics, Posipanko said Gilkerson, a native of Winchester, Va., has made a commitment to him and his mother that he will return to Winthrop and finish his degree in computer science.
"I have no doubt that John will honor that commitment to us," Posipanko said. "But when you have an opportunity to play with the Michael Jordans of soccer, you have to take it."
Posipanko said Isaac doesn't have to report to the Revolution until May.
• DOUBTFUL AGAIN: Kandrick Cooper, Winthrop's record-holding hurdler, was scheduled to make his indoor debut this weekend when the Eagles travel to Ohio to compete in the Akron Open.
But a pulled left hamstring will more than likely keep Cooper, who has run 7.83 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles, on the sidelines this week and maybe the entire indoor season.
"He's getting better, but I want to err on the side of caution," coach Ben Paxton said. "He easily won at Akron last year, but there are bigger fish to fry down the road."
Paxton said there have been discussions about possibly redshirting Cooper, who holds the school and Big South records in the 60-meter hurdles. He could still run outdoor track.
Winthrop has two more indoor meets after Akron.
One of Paxton's athletes debuts this week.
High jumper Jason Williams is raring to go, according to Paxton. Williams has jumped 6 feet, 11 3/4 inches and Paxton thinks the senior will clear 7 feet.
"He's been jumping 6-10 in practice, and that's outside," Paxton said.
• ON THE RISE: The softball team has finally been able to get outside and according to coach Mark Cooke, the Eagles, 50-18 last season, have looked great in scrimmages.
One player who has really looked sharp is sophomore pitcher Cari Wooldridge.
Wooldridge posted a 17-6 record last season with a 3.04 ERA, but her consistent performances were overshadowed by fellow sophomore Megan Evans, who was 25-7 and won Big South Conference pitcher of the year.
"Cari has developed a rise ball and that's added a whole new dimension to her game," Cooke said. "It makes it awfully hard on hitters when you have a hard drop, hard rise and a changeup."
The Eagles open against Cal Northridge on Feb. 8 in the Cathedral City Kick Off Classic in Palm Springs, Calif.
"This past weekend, we had two great scrimmages," Cooke said. "I got to see our hitters facing pitchers for the first time this year. Our pitchers dominated the first day, but the hitters improved the second day.
"Scrimmages against players and pitchers this good can only make us better. This is something we have not had in the past -- quality players one through 20."
• HALL OF FAME: Tickets are on sale for the 2008 induction ceremony of the Winthrop Hall of Fame.
Five former standouts will inducted in ceremonies at McBryde Hall on Feb. 8. The function begins with a 6:30 p.m. reception, followed by dinner and the inductions at 7:30. Tickets are $25.
This year's class includes former coach and administrator Maeberta Bobb; Kevin Pendley, the former Big South golfer of the year and current men's golf coach; Frankie Griffin, a former soccer star, soccer and softball coach; Rick Riese, who played on Winthrop's first men's basketball team and pitcher David Steffler.
There will also be a special presentation of the Jim and Judy Udick Athletics Volunteer of the Year award.