NORMAL — Prior to this school year, Normal West High School soccer coach Val Walker had never sent a player into the NCAA Division I ranks.
With Delphy Sabu's announcement that he will sign with Eastern Illinois, Walker's 13-year production of college players is up to three. The others are his son, Jordan, who will play for Western Michigan, and Illinois-Chicago bound Parker Theobald.
A 6-foot-3, 165-pound center back, Sabu chose EIU over Northern Michigan. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sabu came to the U.S. in 2012 and soon joined Val Walker's club team.
Walker will never forget Sabu's first game.
"He had little or no knowledge of the offsides rule," Walker said. "In their first game, he and his brother (Archimed) were 50 yards offsides every time."
Now Walker reports, "He has a high soccer I.Q. He's very athletic, very skilled. Over the years, he has matured into a very good soccer player."
Sabu had two goals and two assists for the Wildcats' 17-6-2 squad last fall. As a junior, he had three goals and six assists for a 14-8-2 team. On a 16-5-3 squad as a sophomore, he had nine goals and two assists.
According to Walker, EIU coach Kiki Lara envisions Sabu contributing early in his career.
"He's always been a solid defender," Walker said. "Center back is not a glorious position in terms of goals and the accolades that come with the game. However, he's a very tricky player. He uses his head to outwit scorers. He definitely has all the tools."
Sabu said he chose EIU, which went 3-11-4 last fall, because he liked what its program stands for and has accomplished over the years.
"I just liked the players," he added. "They are just good players and they all want to do something similar, which is win a title. They are pretty determined about it."
Sabu, who has yet to choose a major, rates being composed with the ball among his strengths.
"I can defend as well as attack from the back," he said. "(Walker) pushed me every day to do my best."
Walker believes Sabu has so much untapped potential, a professional career after college is within his reach.
"(EIU) will get him on a regimen of good nutrition, good sleep and good weight training and so that will expedite his game tremendously over the next couple of years," Walker predicts.