Kamloops, BC—It is becoming a regular occurrence. That’s the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men’s soccer team going to the City of Penticton for a prospect.
Head coach John Antulov has added another player from the South Okanagan city and the Penticton Pinnacles program to his roster with the announcement that 6’3” striker James Fraser will join the ‘Pack as of August 1st.
Fraser is a graduate of Penticton Secondary and has previous university experience attending Simon Fraser University in 2015-16.
“I chose Kamloops and Thompson Rivers because of its business and soccer programs,” Fraser said. I know a number of the players that are in and out of the program currently. It will certainly be an exciting experience.”
Fraser is described as a dynamic player by his current coach: Ezra Cremers.
“James certainly is a special player,” Cremers stated. “He possesses a high football IQ and has tremendous skills. In my 21 years as a head coach I can honestly say I haven’t dealt with too many players of the quality—both on and off the pitch –of James.”
Cremers has coached Fraser from U-15. He credits Penticton’s previous head coach Chris Bennett along with current assistant coach Paul Arouso with helping hone Fraser’s skills. “He is an impact player,” he adds. “He will have very little problem not only cracking the roster at TRU but likely starting. James really benefited by spending some time as a U-19 player with our professional affiliate: Excelsor Rotterdam.”
James is confident he can be a positive influence on and off the field with the WolfPack—who are hosting the USport Soccer Nationals this coming November. “I know what I am capable of. I plan to be a leader on this team from the get-g. A lot of these guys (returning veterans) are my good friends. There is no pressure on me at all. I will just keep working hard every day and hope it pays off on the field.”
Says coach Antulov about his latest signing: “We are very pleased to have James join our program. I have been working with James off and on for 3 years to join TRU and it finally has happened. He was a player that I was very high on and worked with Ezra Cremer to join TRU. Unfortunately, at that time he made the decision to join SFU but he was a great kid and a player that I always spoke with. It didn’t work out personally for him at SFU but we finally were able to make it work here and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Antulov goes onto say: “James will be an immediate impact player for us. He will make a great partnership with Ryan (Glanville, 5th year, Williams Lake, BC—two time Canada West all-star) as James is a very similar player to him in size, technical ability and is a natural goal scorer. It will be very difficult for defenses to just focus on closing Ryan down with James working with him up front. This gives us 4 top end offensive players with Mitch (Popadynetz, 4th year, Nelson, BC) and Justin (Donaldson, 3rd year, Kamloops, BC) and gives us many options going into attack. Aside from that James, is a hard working player on the field and will do whatever is asked of him. He also gives me unlimited diversity in his game as he can also play anywhere in the midfield and is also an excellent center back. He has been working very hard this off season to be fit and will be ready go for our first games of the season.”
James is currently playing for his home town Penticton Pinnacles in the Pacific Coast Men’s Soccer League Premier Division. In a recent match, he scored the winning goal on a penalty kick against the Vancouver Thunderbirds-the first time Penticton has ever beaten that franchise.
He is joined on that team this summer by current WolfPack players or recruits: Mike Bennett, Finlay McPhie, Brady Van Ryswyk and Jordell Afonso. He has been a past teammate of WolfPack players Jason Staiger and Popadynetz.
James brings to seven the number of new players Antulov has recruited for the WolfPack this year. He joins : Scott Cramer (5’10” midfield, Williams Lake/Vernon, BC, Vernon Christian School/Thompson Okanagan Football Club (BCPSL)), , Juan Calles (5’9”, midfield/defender, Dola, Qatar, Colegio Maya), Joshua Penny (6’1”, striker/midfielder, Surrey, BC-Surrey Christian School/Coquitlam Metro Ford (BCPSL)), Jordell Afonso (5’10”, midfielder, Penticton, BC-Penticton High School/Penticton Pinnacles (TOSL),Anatoli Leveille (5’10”, midfield, Winnipeg, MB-Glengawn Collegiate/REX-Whitecaps Academy),and Justin Hansen (6’2”, midfield/back, Williams Lake, BC- Lake City Secondary/VV OJC Rasmalen (Holland).
THROW INS: Cremers on the relationship between South Okanagan Youth Soccer and TRU. “ I think John (Antulov) recognizes the benefits of our agreement with the Excelsior Academy that we run here. The players we are developing are well rounded footballers—technically and tactically and they adjust well to Canada West play. As a young coach, I look up to John as a role model. He has the unique ability to communicate effectively with players.”
Cremers developing young players: “Aside from the five players we have at TRU, we also have three at UBCO, two at UVIC and one at Trinity Western on the men’s side. For an association with 1,700 players, that is quite the feat.”