GJ soccer player to attend IMG academy

It’s the ultimate opportunity for a young athlete.

Later this month, 16-year-old Jacob Howell will be heading to the IMG Sports Academy in Florida to go to school and work on his soccer game.

“My goal is to play Division I soccer, so this will be good for my development,” Howell said.

The Grand Junction teen spent five weeks at a Florida soccer camp this summer and that’s what led to the invitation to attend IMG.

“They came to me after three weeks and asked if I was interested,” Howell said.

The center midfielder will spend his entire junior year at IMG going to school and playing soccer. He said that it will likely be up to him and his parents if he wants to return for his senior year.

Howell played for Grand Junction High School last fall, and the Colorado West Elite team where he was coached by Stephen Hofer. The coach says attending IMG is a “massive” opportunity for the teen.

“It’s more exposure for him and down there he doesn’t have to travel much to get that exposure. Coaches will go there to see these players and evaluate them,” he said.

IMG, which has the reputation as being the premier prep school for student-athletes in the United States, puts together different leagues with its players. College recruiters come to the games and tournaments to scout the young players.

“It really can open a lot of doors,” Hofer said.

Hofer said he thinks Howell will do well at the academy.

“He’s very athletic, he’s got a nose for defending, he’s good in transition and he’s very creative with the ball,” he said.

Howell said he’s looking forward to working on his skills and says that he’s capable of evaluating his own game, so he already knows what areas he needs to work on to improve.

Playing soccer has been at the center of Howell’s life since he started playing when he was 6 years old.

“It’s just always been fun for me,” he said. “Instead of being inside watching TV, I would go outside and play soccer.”

Many of the players at IMG will become candidates for the U.S. National team, Hofer said.

Baseley McClaskey, another Grand Junction soccer player, just returned from IMG after spending her junior and senior years there, Hofer said.

The IMG Sports Academy is a private athletic training facility and prep school that caters to athletes in sports that include golf, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, football, basketball and track and field.

The academy, located in Bradenton, Fla., attracts student-athletes from around the country and a variety of different countries.


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