By: Dan Stickradt
BOYS SOCCER: Stoney Creek’s Melaragni is one of Michigan’s top talents
BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — Michael Melaragni once had a love affair with basketball.
His hoop dreams included college basketball.
While Melaragni still envisions playing collegiately, his soccer-playing skills have created a new vision.
Although Melaragni, now a senior at Rochester Stoney Creek and two-sport star, still has a passion for basketball, his great love can now be found on the soccer pitch.
Currently, he’s one of the state’s best high school players, entering the 2017 season as one of the leading candidates for Mr. Soccer, given annually by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association for the state’s top player. His performance during the 2017 season’s first month has only boasted that reputation.
“I just go out there and do what I can to help my team win games,” smiled Melaragni, who also is top 10 in his class with a 4.0 GPA.
“When I was in elementary school and even in middle school, I wanted to play basketball. I dreamed of playing college basketball,” recalled Melaragni. “But I started to get better at soccer. Then I realized that soccer was my best sport.”
Melaragni made the varsity soccer as a freshman. He was All-State Third Team as a sophomore and All-State First Team in Division 1 as a junior. He tallied just one goal as a ninth-grader, scored 11 as a sophomore and set a single-season school record as a junior with 29 goals.
Melaragni is off to an offensive explosion this season on the soccer pitch, scoring 20 goals in 11 games for a young team that has played games with as many as seven starters on the sidelines with injuries. He is simply taking over games and terrorizing opposing defenses.
On the basketball court last winter, the two-time varsity letterman earned All-State honors as a junior, where he averaged around 12.0 points and 10.5 rebounds a game in leading the Cougars to a Class A district championship and berth in the regional finals. Stoney Creek lost to eventual state champion Clarkston in the Sweet 16 — the furthest that program has ever advanced in the postseason.
What has triggered all of the attention on the soccer pitch besides his skillset are his physical attributes. He has quick acceleration, great speed and the height and power to just blow by opponents with the soccer ball.
Melaragni has a similar physical makeup of the past two Mr. Soccer winners, Traverse City West’s Dalton Michael (2016) and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s Anthony Bowie (2015) — as Melaragni stands around 6-foot-4 and weighs 200 pounds.
“He’s a great player,” said first-year Stoney Creek coach Doug Steinard, who spent the last four years at nearby Auburn Hills Avondale. “He’s one of the best in the state. He can just take over. He scores against (almost) everybody.”
Melaragni is tall, fast, physical and has a unteachable knack for finding the back of the net. And both Division I Western Michigan, Oakland University and more recently Michigan State have taken notice of this budding talent — who opted not to play in the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy system. Instead he plays high school soccer and basketball and club soccer with Rochester Select Soccer Club.
He will wait to make a decision, hoping that more D-I schools will jump into the fold as he continues to shine.
Melaragni joins East Kentwood senior goalkeeper Haris Dzafic and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central senior forward Eric Connerty as part of a small group of frontrunners for Mr. Soccer.
Advancing beyond the districts will bolster Melaragni’s chances for the award, something that Stoney Creek has not done since 2013. The Cougars lost in district finals the past two years.
Melaragni said he never considered playing for one of the state’s two U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy programs, which is a 10.5-month commitment. He would have had to quit playing basketball and soccer for his high school.
“There was no way I was going to do that. You can't play D.A. and still have time to play basketball, and you have to give up playing soccer for your high school because they (overlap) in the fall,” said Melaragni. “That wasn’t an option for me.”
As a two-sport All-State standout, the physical attributes to play college sports and a stellar grade-point-average, there’s likely more offers to come. Melaragni is set to write the next chapter, as he is far from his potential.
“I know a lot of (winning Mr. Soccer) has to do with how far you go in the playoffs, and I know you can gain more exposure by (advancing further),” added Melaragni. “It would be cool to win. But we just want to win our league and district and see what happens. Stoney Creek has never won a state title before. There’s so many good teams in this area. I hope we can get lucky and go far this season.”
With Michael Melaragni leading the show, all things are possible.