When coach Jeremy Gunn told Giuseppe Gentile there was a chance he could earn playing time on the Charlotte 49ers soccer team as a freshman, Gentile took Gunn at his word.
Gentile said he considered other colleges, but Gunn's promise sealed the deal for him to sign with Charlotte.
As the 49ers approached their regular-season-ending game at St. Louis on Saturday, Gentile had done more than crack the lineup. The striker was leading the 49ers in goals as a first-year player.
Next weekend, nationally ranked Charlotte will compete in the Atlantic 10 tournament in St. Louis.
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A four-game stretch in mid-October, in which he scored six of his team-high seven goals, helped Gentile spread his name on a national level. After scoring a hat trick against visiting St. Bonaventure on Oct. 14, he added a goal two days later in a 1-0 victory against Duquesne.
That two-game outburst made Gentile the National Player of the Week according to College Soccer News and TopDrawerSoccer.com. He also was selected to Soccer America's National Team and named the A-10's co-player of the week.
"I loved the fact that I got all these awards, but it doesn't change who I am," said Gentile. "I'm still the same guy I was that week. I'm nothing special. I'm a 49er, and I'm as equal as everyone else. Just because I got the awards doesn't mean I'm any more special than anyone else."
And about that name: "Gentile" is Italian in origin and is pronounced "Jent-EE-lay." Among his friends and teammates, he answers to "Giussi" (pronounced "juicy"), which is a common European shortening of his first name.
Though he speaks in perfect American English, Gentile has stronger ties to Europe. He was born in Miami but spent most of his youth in Switzerland. He speaks fluent German, Swiss-German and Spanish and "very good" Italian, his father's native tongue.
At 15, Gentile and his older sister moved to Charlotte, following an aunt who had moved here from Miami. He enrolled at Ardrey Kell High School, where he turned into an all-state high school player. Gentile also played for the prestigious Charlotte Soccer Academy.
Getting an early jump on this season, Gentile participated in the 49ers' workouts this summer. He wasn't in the starting lineup to begin the season but was a key contributor.
An injury to another player gave Gentile the break to become a starter. Unfortunately, junior Jennings Rex injured a hamstring against Virginia in the fifth game of the season. Gentile started two games later against Campbell.
Rex and redshirt senior T.J. Beaulieu have both returned from injuries. Gunn said those two players, plus Gentile and redshirt junior Owen Darby, will all be "fighting for time" and complementing each other at striker.
Gentile has "had a phenomenal season so far, and we hope he continues with that," said Gunn. "He does all the things you want out of a striker. He works hard looking for the ball. He always competes for the ball, so he's very, very tough to play against. He has a wonderful competitive drive."
After a disappointing weekend two weeks ago, in which the 49ers recorded a tie at LaSalle and a loss at Fordham, they bounced back with victories against Xavier and Dayton last week. Gentile said Charlotte is playing well as it approaches the postseason.
"We definitely are in a good position right now," said Gentile. "We've been playing awesome. The guys have so much chemistry together. It's like a brotherhood."