Jan. 19, 2018
MLS SuperDraft | Donate
PHILADELPHIA - University of Denver men's soccer co-captain Graham Smith (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) was selected by Sporting Kansas City with the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas, on Friday morning at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
"I'm extremely proud of Graham for chasing his dream and not being scared to fail," head coach Jamie Franks said. "I don't know many student-athletes that have faced the adversity that he has, especially in the last year, but when he looks back on this, I think he'll be most proud of his journey to get here. With that said, I know that Graham understands what's in-front of him. He's headed to a great club, and we look forward to watching Graham continue his journey at the professional level."
In just three seasons under Franks, the Pioneers have seen their first three MLS SuperDraft first round selections in the last two years, not including a likely top-5 pick in Kortne Ford who signed a homegrown contract with the Colorado Rapids prior to the 2017 draft.
Smith is the latest of nine Pioneers to be drafted in the last 10 seasons. The Denver co-captain joins Reagan Dunk (Real Salt Lake - 13th overall - 2017), Sam Hamilton (Colorado Rapids - 15th overall - 2017), Taylor Hunter (Houston - 49thoverall - 2015), Zach Bolden (Chicago Fire - 61st overall - 2014), Drew Beckie (Columbus Crew - 28th overall - 2013), Joe Willis (D.C. United - 50th overall - 2011), Kris Banghart (Real Salt Lake - 64th overall - 2010) and Kyle Christensen (Chivas USA - 35th overall - 2009) as the Pioneers selected in the last 10 MLS SuperDrafts. In the last three seasons, Ford (Colorado Rapids - 2017) and Jordan Schweitzer (Seattle Sounders - 2016) have signed homegrown deals with their academy parent clubs prior to the draft.
"Our recent success with players in the MLS SuperDraft speaks volumes to the development that we are committed to in this program," Franks said. "We haven't had student-athletes that enter their freshman years here as first round picks, but through the commitment we have in this program to prepare kids for life after college, these players have developed into young men ready to play at the professional level. Our student-athletes leave this program knowing who they are as leaders, and more importantly who they are as people. Our young guys now look up to these three, and want to be like them. That's how you get better every day, and that's how you build a program. We look forward to seeing who this motivates on our current roster, and who will represent DU on that podium next year."
At the end of the 2017 season, Smith was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-West Region Second Team. Following his transfer from Oregon State after his sophomore season, Smith played and started in 43 matches in his Denver career, finishing with 19 points on six goals and seven assists. Smith scored three game-winning goals in his career, including against Omaha and No. 16 Akron in his senior year. The Highlands Ranch, Colo., native split time at holding mid and center back in his senior campaign, but still finished second on the team in points with 10 on three goals and four assists.
In Franks' system, the converted centerback was a mainstay in the Denver defense for the last two seasons, helping lead Denver to the College Cup for the first time in program history in 2016. Smith sat in-front of a back-four in 2016 that finished third in the country in goals against average (0.520) and third in shutout percentage (0.580), while not allowing a shot on goal in five matches. In 2017, Denver's defense allowed just 54 shots on goal (2.84/game), and combined for a 0.711 goals against average that ranked 16th in the country.
Academically, Smith became Denver's 53rd CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2017, including its 18th First Team pick. Smith earned a 3.94 grade point average in finance at the University of Denver, and helped lead the Pioneers to the top grade point average in the country for the second-straight year in 2016-17.
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Student-Athlete Alumni Giving Challenge:
In 2017-18, the University of Denver is holding an alumni giving challenge in an effort to increase student-athlete alumni participation in the Denver Athletics Annual Fund. The sport program with the highest percentage of alumni participation will receive an additional $10,000 of support through the generosity of an anonymous donor. Former student-athletes can make a gift online, by calling 303-871-2388 during normal business hours or by sending a check to:
Athletics Development Office
Attn: Kaley Rickert
2201 E. Asbury Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
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