Coastal Carolina soccer standout Ashton Bennett was not selected in Major League Soccer’s annual SuperDraft on Thursday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the high-scoring forward was left disappointed by the outcome.
Speaking a couple hours after the two-round, 38-player draft had ended, CCU men’s soccer coach Shaun Docking said he wasn’t surprised by what happened and suggested it may actually have been Bennett’s own doing.
“I’m assuming Ashton and his agent made it known to the MLS that they were looking for him to go overseas to play, so because of that, any of the MLS guys are not going to waste a draft pick on a guy they know is going overseas,” Docking said. “I’m pretty certain that’s what happened. I haven’t talked to Ashton or his agent recently, but I know in December at the end of the season we were certainly talking about his preference to go overseas rather than going in the MLS.”
Bennett, a two-time semifinalist for the prestigious Hermann Trophy, led all NCAA Division I players in goals as a junior in 2011, scoring 23 times while adding seven assists, and followed with 16 goals and nine assists this fall to lead the Chants to the third round of the NCAA tournament for just the second time in program history.
His 39 career goals the last couple seasons after transferring from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College rank six in program history, trailing only players who spent more than two years at Coastal. A native of Clarendon, Jamaica, Bennett is only the second Chant to be named a Hermann Trophy semifinalist and one of just three players to ever win the Big South’s Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons.
“He’s been fantastic. He’s been one of the best players we’ve ever had,” Docking said. “... I still think Joseph Ngwenya has been our benchmark having played primarily in the MLS and then for [European power] Bayern Munich, so we’ve had some great players come through here and I’d put Ashton right up there with the best of them.”
And now he’ll try to carve out his own path as a professional. Bennett couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday, but Docking reiterated that it’s common for top collegiate players to go undrafted by the MLS if they’ve expressed intentions of playing internationally.
“I think he just [feels he can] make more money in Europe,” Docking said. “The contracts are bigger, better, and obviously the profile of the soccer is a lot higher over there, and I think that’s where Ashton really felt he wanted to play. So I think it makes perfect sense with [what happened in] the draft. There’s an outside chance somebody will spend a supplemental pick on him next week unless he’s already signed in Europe.”
Noting that Bennett has expressed a desire to ultimately play in England, Docking suggested a start in Scandinavia would be a logical beginning for the 5-foot-9 forward as he builds his resume and reputation professionally.
“I think he’s good enough,” Docking said. “He can score goals, and that for any team is a very valuable asset that a player could bring. He’s got a great shot, I think, to make it at the professional level.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318, or follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/RyanYoungTSN.