Dajani receives sizable scholarship to UAB
Maine East senior boys soccer player Rami Dajani signs his letter of intent to play at Alabama-Birmingham while sitting between Blue Demons coach Vic DiPrizio (left) and athletic director Michael Bender. | Dan Shalin~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 30, 2013 2:08AM
PARK RIDGE — Maine East athletic director Michael Bender got emotional Tuesday when he recalled the day four years ago when he received news about a freshman scoring the game-winning goal in a Blue Demons early-season soccer game.
That freshman, forward Rami Dajani, went on to become one of the greatest players in the program’s history. In his four seasons, Dajani set a school record with 88 goals and 50 assists (31 and eight in 2012), and in the fall he was named all-state by the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association. Dajani’s No. 9 jersey has been retired by the school.
At a Tuesday afternoon signing ceremony at Maine East, Dajani, flanked by Bender and Blue Demons coach Vic DiPrizio, signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Alabama-Birmingham, a member of Conference USA that has reached the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons. Dajani will receive a scholarship that covers tuition, books and food.
Also attending the ceremony, which was held in the school’s Guidance Office and included a congratulatory cake, were Dajani’s mother Suha, several high school administrators and teachers and a number of Dajani’s teammates.
“We couldn’t be any more proud of (Dajani),” Bender said to the crowd as the AD choked back tears.
Though a prolific scorer on the high school level, Dajani’s college options had been somewhat limited before the UAB opportunity materialized.
A hip pointer injury had forced Dajani to miss six games early in his senior season, and a few college coaches ended up canceling trips to see him play during that time.
With two sisters in college, Dajani said he was looking for a financial aid package, something Division I programs like Valparaiso and IUPUI had been unable to provide despite their interest in Dajani.
Then, earlier this winter, Dajani’s club coaches at Evanston’s Jahbat F.C. contacted UAB assistant Joel Wallace, who was out to find an additional forward for the Blazers. Wallace watched Dajani play a club soccer game in February, and he and UAB coach Mike Getman returned to see the player again in early March. The scholarship offer was made late last week.
Dajani has not yet visited the school’s Birmingham campus, but said the financial package, the level of competition, the team’s style of play and the chance to study physical therapy were the reasons he had been so eager to sign.
“(UAB) wants me to put the ball in the back of the net. I’m just going to be working on doing that,” Dajani said. “They like to hold the ball (play possession soccer) and that’s how my club team is. It should be similar.”
While Dajani certainly knows how to score, DiPrizio said the three-year captain is hardly a one-dimensional player.
“All-around, he’s one of the best players we’ve ever had,” said the coach, whose team went 12-7-2 last fall after reaching the sectional title game in 2011. “(Dajani) will drop back from his striker position, sometimes he’s back playing defensively. His vision, his ability with both feet ... he’s great in the air for his size, probably our best player in the air. There really is nothing he can’t do. I’m glad other coaches finally saw that and he got recognition.”