A Reading United standout from last season who is coming off an All-American season in the NAIA is transferring this fall to the University of Louisville.
Lamine Conte was announced as part of the Louisville fall recruiting class last week. The Philadelphia Union Academy and Junior Lone Star alum chose the Cardinals over a number of other interested programs in the most competitive conference in college soccer.
“Yes, I did have other ACC options but I talked to the coach and was really pleased with our conversation,” Conte said. “I’ve watched many of their games and like their playing style.”
Conte spent the last two seasons at the University of Mobile, winning a conference title with the Rams last fall before coming up short in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament.
Louisville head coach Ken Lolla said Conte’s success at Mobile and development with Reading United were both factors in him being recruited to join the Cardinals.
“He’s done well with Mobile,” Lolla said. “He was a big part of the team’s success. We were all aware of that but even more it was the type of person he is and his character that we liked. He’s a good team guy.”
A native of Guinea in West Africa, Conte came to the U.S. when he was 15 knowing very little English but quickly found a soccer community at Junior Lone Star FC.
“It was where everything started,” Conte said of Junior Lone Star. “It was an African team and newly coming to the United States I needed that. It helped me in my transition a lot when I didn’t even speak English. It kept me busy. After school I would head straight to training so my parents didn’t have to worry about me following the wrong group.”
After a year with Junior Lone Star, Conte got a tryout with the Union and became the second player — after current first team midfielder Derrick Jones — to make the jump from the Lone Stars to the Union Academy.
With the Union U17 and U19 teams, Conte played mostly in front of the back line, but has been used more as a central defender since. During his last season, Conte was part of the original group of academy players who trained with Bethlehem Steel FC.
Lolla said Conte’s versatility was an attractive feature for a team that has holes to fill on the back line and in the midfield for next season.
“We love the fact he can play both positions,” Lolla said. “We can see him playing in either spot, either on the back line or deep in midfield.”
The back line is where Conte really showed a lot of growth last summer with Reading United. He was a regular there with 11 appearances and 886 minutes, which considering the size of PDL rosters says a lot.
“Playing at Reading was very helpful in the whole process,” Conte said. “I was really fit coming in for my second season at Mobile. You can’t get comfortable and don’t have time to because there are always two or three players playing in the same position as you.”
His play at Reading caught the attention of scouts, which culminated in the D1 offers that came in after his sophomore season at Mobile.
“I wouldn’t have asked for a better NAIA program to be apart of,” Conte said. “Being able to play there has helped me grow as a player and person. The school already had great history with the soccer program so as a player you have to meet certain expectations to be able to play.”
Transfers have done well in Lolla’s program over the past several years.
Two recent examples include Daniel Johnson, a transfer from the University of Maryland who signed with the Chicago Fire last year and recent San Jose Earthquakes signing Mohamed Thiaw, who transferred after two years at Cincinnati State. A couple players with local ties — Shane Campbell and Greg Cochrane — also did well with the Cardinals after transferring in.
“I’m really excited about joining the University of Louisville,” Conte said. “But really thankful to Reading and the University of Mobile men’s soccer team.”