UNBC won the Francesco Bartolillo sweepstakes.
Bartolillo, an ultra-talented midfielder from Calgary, was coveted by numerous university soccer programs but has signed with the UNBC Timberwolves for the next Canada West season.
"There was a real big buzz in Alberta as soon as we signed him because all the Alberta schools were choked that we took out one of the best players," said UNBC head coach Alan Alderson. "The great news is, he was at the University of Calgary this past year but he didn't play because he was coming off [an] injury. So we get a player that's a little bit older, which is advantageous for us because we're so young. That was a huge signing for our program."
Bartolillo didn't play while at U of C because of a knee injury. But Alderson said the teenaged phenom "looked fantastic" when he saw him in action last November.
Bartolillo has suited up with the Alberta provincial team and he spent three years in the National Training Centre program. One of his buddies, Tofa Fakunle, already plays for the Timberwolves and that was a factor in his decision to join the UNBC squad.
"I've always done this in building my programs," Alderson said. "You get a really good player [like Fakunle] and then you make sure you recruit his friends and if you do that you end up with a really strong program. That's the case here with Francesco.
"Francesco is willing to take a risk on a program that he thinks is going in a good direction and hopefully we start winning some trophies and banners and medals here real soon."
Fakunle was a UNBC rookie last season, which was UNBC's second at the Canada West level. Bartolillo will be a second-year student but will be in his first year of eligibility in Canada West. He plans to visit UNBC and meet some of his new teammates on the March 28-29 weekend.
Three other players -- Josh McAvoy, Conrad Rowlands and Ben Gosse -- have also signed with the Timberwolves for next season.
McAvoy and Rowlands are outside midfielders and Gosse is a defender. All played previously for Alderson on an Abbotsford all-star team.
Alderson said McAvoy has tremendous speed and technical skills and plays with a bit of an edge. Rowlands has similar traits and, according to the coach, "is like a freight train when he goes down the wing." Gosse, meanwhile, is described by Alderson as "an incredible athlete" who plays a physical brand of soccer.
"Ben will toughen us up a bit," Alderson said. "I just love the kid -- a great attitude and just a warrior."
Another player, defender Dan Goodey, has given Alderson a verbal commitment for the 2014 season.
"He played a couple of years at Fraser Valley so we get a player who has a couple years of experience and will definitely be a key part of our team," Alderson said.
Last season, the Timberwolves finished with a 2-9-3 record, which translated into a fifth-place finish in Canada West's five-team Pacific Division.
"We weren't as deep as we needed to be so we not only add some key starters right away but hopefully we'll add some boys that can improve our depth as well," Alderson said.