Growing up in Haiti, Ducarmel Jeannestin
always had a soccer ball on his foot.
Pickup games in the streets were always a hodgepodge of players, including having adults on the teams.
"That's what makes you a better player," said Jeannestin, who is called "Duke" by everyone who knows him.
When Jeannestin and his family moved to the United States in sixth grade, he was already a well-rounded soccer player.
Jeannestin started showing his true talent when he was a freshman at Auburndale (Fla.)
. Now, three years into his high school career, Jeannestin is one of the premier forwards in the country.
"He's just electrifying and just so dynamic and has such a willingness to learn," Auburndale coach Guy Jennings said. "He's so explosive."
Jeannestin was one of 150 high school juniors named as Allstate All-Americans in December and will be considered for participation in the Allstate All-America Cup this summer in Orlando.
Former Major League Soccer and U.S. men's national team members Taylor Twellman and Brian McBride will join the likes of former U.S. women's national soccer team standouts and Olympic gold medalists Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain to coach and mentor these promising high school players at the event.
"It's great," said Jeannestin about earning Allstate All-American status. "I'm reaching my goals, my dreams. I feel like my dream is starting to come true."
Jeannestin had a fabulous junior season. He tallied career highs in goals (27) and assists (23) but more importantly than his individual success was he helped Auburndale capture the Class 4A state title.
"It was awesome," Jeannestin said. "That was the dream right there. The goal was to get a state championship. My freshman year, I didn't know about a state championship. But everybody was talking about it, ‘We can win a state championship. We can win a state championship.'"
Said Jennings: "I always knew Duke would be a reason we would win."
Jennings, who retired as coach after capturing his third state title, has been amazed by Jeannestin's career at Auburndale. He has 71 goals and 40 assists in just 66 games.
The 17-year-old has a phenomenal shot and his ball-handling skills are unparalleled.
"This kid can run as fast with the ball than he can without the ball," Jennings said. "He's not real tall – he's probably 5-7, maybe 5-8 -- but his legs are, he's put together, let's put it that way."
"I use my speed a lot and most players, they're not fast like me," Jeannestin said. "Dribbling with the ball, that's the thing I usually work on in practice to make sure it's perfect."
Notching 23 assists as a junior is what really stands out to Jeannestin. He loves getting his teammates in the action.
"During my junior year, I wanted to help my team out and make these guys were involved more," Jeannestin said. "When you play against other teams that know about you, there's not a lot you can do. When you make the other players around you look good, the team looks good."
Jennings feels sometimes his star player is too unselfish. But you can't fault a team player.
"Duke is so willing to assist," Jennings said. "Sometimes you're like, please just take it yourself. As a coach I'm thinking, just take it yourself. He's just trying to get other guys involved."
Jeannestin came out for the Auburndale boys soccer team as a freshman, earned a starting spot and netted 24 goals. The next season, he sustained a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out a few games. He pushed through, playing hurt late in the season, and still racked up 20 goals in 16 games.
"When I'm healthy and I want to play, I'm telling you, nobody can stop me," Jeannestin said.
He worked hard in the offseason to become a better soccer player. That paid dividends.
Jeannestin plans on working out this summer with some of his coaches. He knows there are still a lot of areas where he can improve his game.
"Speed. I can get faster, I know that," said Jeannestin, who would like to become a professional soccer player. "My dribbling, my shooting, all this kind of stuff I need to improve on. If you're going to make it to the next level professionally, you've got to work on yourself a lot. That's the thing I'm working on, my touches, my speed, my dribbling."
Jeannestin, who plays club soccer for Heartland U19, should have a big summer on the recruiting front. Some college programs have started to take notice of his unique abilities on the field. He noted Michigan State and Eastern Florida State have reached out to him.
"I suspect he'll get seen a little bit more," Jennings said. "He's going to get a full ride somewhere, we just don't know where yet."