The transition from Ghana to Los Olivos was seamless.
It looks like the next move won’t give Abu Danladi much trouble either.
Danladi, Dunn School’s soccer superstar, officially signed his National Letter of Intent to play for UCLA Wednesday.
Danladi says he was hesitant, and a bit nervous, coming from Ghana nearly three years ago, but the Dunn community quickly erased any fears he may have had.
“It’s been great (at Dunn),” Dunladi said. “I thought coming here was a huge transition, not knowing anybody. I thought it was going to be a really, really hard transition, but coming here, to be honest, it’s a really great community to be in, they accept you, they respect you, they show you how to be a better person, they give you all the tools you need to be a better person. I’ve learned so much.”
Danladi came to Dunn about 2 1/2 years ago thanks to a program that helps bring athletic standouts from Africa to the United States.
The Right to Dream Academy is based in Ghana and has assisted a number of young Africans get noticed for their athletic prowess, including Dunladi, allowing the young players to gain scholarships to universities around the world.
Dunn has been working with Right to Dream for more than 10 years.
Danladi became a sensation on the national soccer recruiting scene last summer when he had a breakout performance at the Milk Cup in the United Kingdom. Playing for the FC Strikers, a club team from Southern California, Danladi scored four goals in a win over Tottenham’s youth team.
The 18-year-old said he had scored 15 goals in the 10 games Dunn had played before Wednesday’s home match against Carpinteria Cate. He also had six assists.
The young forward was recruited by UCSB, North Carolina, Georgetown, Berkeley, Boston College and other premier schools.
But he verbally committed to the Bruins last summer and never moved away from that choice.
“I thought (UCLA) had something special, the coaches were really honest with you, they told you what they expect from the players, and why they’re recruiting you and why they think you’re going to be a good fit for the program,” Danladi said.
Dunn’s soccer coach, Mark Geriak, says Danladi is the most talented player he’s ever seen at Dunn.
“We’ve been working with the Right to Dream Academy for 10 years. I think that he’s the most talented out of the African boys that we’ve had,” Geriak said. “What he brings to us is his raw athleticism, he’s a wonderful athlete, he’s got a hunger and an appetite for this game and is a natural leader for our boys.”
Danladi grew up speaking the native language of Ghana, known as Twi. But his English is now nearly flawless.
Danladi lives with one of his teachers, Helena Avery, off campus.
“My mother and father are still in Ghana,” he said. “I talk to them from time to time.”
But Danladi doesn’t allow his emotions affect his performance on the pitch. He has his goals in mind, and is too determined to let anything get in the way of him achieving those goals.
“I miss my family, but I know the reason why I’m here and I really dedicated my life to do that, so that’s what I’m going to do,” Danladi said.
Danladi’s decision to join the Right to Dream Academy was fueled by a number of things. Mainly, the academy would help him become a better soccer player, but it would also help his family as the academy would feed, house and clothe him.
“Life in Ghana was tough,” he said. “I come from an all right family, sometimes it was hard. Me leaving and going to the academy was an opportunity to help the family. One less person to feed. I made sure I made the best out of it.”
Danladi said he’s now focused on playing well to finish out his high school career and succeeding at UCLA. But his dream is, and always will be, to play for the Ghana National Team.
“It’s everyone’s dream growing up in Ghana is to play for the Ghana National Team,” he said. “I would love to do that. It would be a really good opportunity to play. That’s my dream.”