Separated from home by an ocean, thought after thought raced through Kadeem Pantophlet’s mind.
Then a basketball player at Duquesne, Pantophlet had just gotten out of a meeting with coach Jim Ferry at the end of the 2012-13 season, one in which a cruel reality was presented to him — if he wanted to play and truly make a mark in his college basketball career, he would have to do it elsewhere.
The game that had brought Pantophlet from the Netherlands to Pittsburgh was gone.
Staring at one of life’s inevitable and indispensable crossroads, a passion of his past would help shape his future. He was going to go back to the sport he left several years ago, but had never left him — soccer.
Less than two years removed from that fateful decision, Pantophlet has become an accomplished striker and the leading scorer on the Dukes soccer team.
“I wasn’t looking forward to starting over somewhere else,” he said. “I had a feeling that I could still play soccer and it’s a sport I love playing anyway.
“So why not?”
At first glance, it seems bizarre for a rangy, 6-foot-7 athlete to play a sport in which balance and a low center of gravity are paramount
The beautiful game, however, has long been a part Pantophlet’s identity.
Growing up in the Dutch town of Tiel, he gravitated to the sport the way many others in the country do. Anytime he would go outside, he would find a place to play, often at the fields and small, fenced-in areas scattered throughout the city.
Circumstances soon began to change, though.
With his skyrocketing height, Pantophlet developed an interest in basketball. As opposed to the hyper-competitive crucible of European soccer, he saw a greater future in basketball, one where he could maybe even play professionally. By the time he was 16, basketball became his primary focus.
While attending an academy in Spain, he caught the attention of Duquesne’s coach at the time, Ron Everhart, who ultimately offered him a scholarship. Without ever visiting campus, Pantophlet accepted it.
He played two seasons for the Dukes and grew into a consistent role player by his sophomore season, averaging 21 minutes per game.
But between his first and second year with the team, there was a coaching change, with Ferry replacing Everhart, who was let go in March 2012.
— Kadeem Pantophlet
He had grown to love Duquesne and didn’t want to have to transfer, even if it meant the end of his basketball career. While discussing his predicament with Colin Phillips, a friend of his who was on the soccer team, a suggestion popped up. Why not give soccer another try?
Pantophlet reached out to Chase Brooks, who had just been hired as the Dukes coach after a successful run at Niagara, and the two arranged what amounted to a two-week trial that spring. If Brooks liked what he saw, then Pantophlet would earn a scholarship and a spot on the team.
It didn’t take long for any uncertainties to be erased. In Pantophlet, Brooks saw a towering presence with atypically good feet for someone his size, a matchup nightmare who would require two or three defenders on set pieces and an imposing scoring threat schooled in the technical-oriented Dutch youth system.
“With his size and athletic ability, he’s a unique type of player,” Phillips said. “That called attention to him right away, that we really might have something here.”
Since joining the team, those qualities have shone through. Pantophlet was second on the team with four goals in 2013 and he has already matched that mark halfway through the regular season this year, along with collecting a team-high three assists. With its unique threat up top, a once-middling Duquesne program is 5-2-2.
As beneficial as the junior has been to the Dukes, soccer has played an equally integral role in Pantophlet’s transformation. He might not be where he thought he would three or four years ago, but through the sport, he has found a second chance.
“It’s amazing how things happen in life,” Brooks said. “I don’t think he’s regretted anything.”
— Duquesne Mens Soccer (@DuqMSoccer) October 2, 2014