Jan. 12, 2012Photo Gallery
STORRS, Conn. - Connecticut continued a long tradition of MLS draft picks today as both Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Tony Casciowere taken in the first round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Jean-Baptiste was the first defender taken at No. 8 overall by the Portland Timbers while Cascio was selected No. 14 by the Colorado Rapids.
Jean-Baptiste and Cascio become UConn's seventh and eighth first-round picks and the 23rd and 24th UConn players drafted by Major League Soccer since the league's inception in 1996.
"It's just a great testament to the type of kids we have in the program. Good guys, good players obviously," said UConn head coach Ray Reid.
"For us as players, coming from a great coaching staff at UConn, it just shows how good the program is. It seems that there's always at least one player in the first round. It's definitely is a reflection on UConn and the coaches that are there."
"It just shows UConn soccer has a ton of great players. I feel like there's more of our players that should go in the first round every year," said Andrew Jean-Baptiste.
The BIG EAST led all conferences with seven players selected in the first round (19 picks). The ACC was second with four picks.
"The number of picks in the first 19 shows the quality of the league. The conference is certainly one of top two in the country. With the size of the league, it's grueling to play the league schedule but I think the draft showed just how powerful this league really is," said Reid.
"Tony Casciograduates in three and a half years and now steps into a solid contract in the MLS. We are extremely proud of him on both fronts."
Tony Cascio(Gilbert, Ariz.) joins the Colorado Rapids after a successful career at UConn in which he was named a 2010 NSCAA First Team All-American and a semifinalist for the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy. Cascio led UConn to the NCAA Quarterfinals as a senior, scoring goals in his last two games in Storrs.
"When they called my name out there today, there were a bunch of emotions going on. I was definitely excited. Colorado is close to home so I'm looking forward to that. It's kind of like a dream come true but people have to realize it'll be tough. It's a job and I could lose it at any time. I'll have to work really hard to get in and earn time," said Cascio.
"Going to Colorado will be great for him. He has great potential at the next level. He can play a variety of positions. Tony is one of the most coachable kids we've ever had at UConn," added Coach Reid.
Cascio entered the 2011 season as a Preseason All-American, a member of the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy Watch List and the BIG EAST Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. He finished his final season in Storrs with 18 points on five goals and eight assists. Cascio finished his career with 73 points on 24 goals and 25 assists. He was named to the 2011 All-BIG EAST Second Team as a senior after earning a spot on the All-BIG EAST First Team as a sophomore and junior.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste(Brentwood, N.Y.) left UConn after a sophomore season in which he was named All-BIG EAST First Team and the 2011 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. As a freshman, Jean-Baptiste earned a spot on the All-BIG EAST Rookie Team and was named a Soccer America First Team Freshman All-American.
Andrew Jean-Baptisteon hearing his name announced: "I was shocked. I wasn't thinking the Portland Timbers (would take me) but once I heard my name, I was shocked. It was crazy. It felt great."
"He's very talented young man who's very athletic. I think he'll flourish at the next level," said Reid.
Baptiste played every minute of every game and anchored a Connecticut defense that allowed just 10 goals in 25 games. The Huskies set a program record with 16 shutouts this season. Baptiste also found his way onto the score sheet with two goals and an assist, notching the game-tying goal at Rutgers in the BIG EAST Tournament as UConn went on to win, 3-1.
"I came into it (MLS Draft) hearing a lot of comments and thinking I was one of the best defenders. Being the first defender drafted, it feels great. I knew with all the midfielders and forwards, I was going to have to wait to get called. I was mainly concerned with which defenders would get called and hearing my name first meant a lot to me."
UConn senior back Nickardo Blake was not selected in the MLS SuperDraft but will hope to be chosen in the Supplemental Draft on Tuesday, January 17.