Kremer setting sights on Olympics Rising soccer star doesn't let size keep him from thinking big

June 23, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

He stands just 5 feet 6 and weighs 135 pounds, but J. J. Kremer may yet rank among the giants in soccer.

As a junior at Calvert Hall two years ago, Kremer was chosen to the Olympic Developmental Program's under-17 National Team.

A year later, he earned The Baltimore Sun's 1992 All-Metro Player of the Year honors after scoring 23 goals to lead the Cardinals to their second straight Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference crown -- their 15th overall.

But the striker/midfielder's latest accomplishment might have Olympic implications.

A sophomore-to-be at UMBC, Kremer recently was chosen to play with the East Team in the U.S. Olympic Festival in San Antonio, Texas, July 20-Aug. 1.

"I can't wait to get there, but at the same time, I don't know what to expect," said Kremer, 18, who, as a member of the ODP's under-19 state team also has a July 1-4 regional team tryout, which again could lead to national team honors.

"Right now, that's what I want most -- to get back on the national team," said Kremer, whose initials stand for Jerry Jr.

But amid the excitement of the U.S. playing host to the 1994 World Cup, Kremer admits to hoping his latest opportunity leads to even greater things -- as it did for his Olympic and World Cup National Team idols -- Tab Ramos, a North Carolina State graduate, and John Harkes of Virginia.

"Could J. J. be an Olympian? No question. He's gotten bigger, stronger and his confidence level is excellent right now," said Bill Karpovich, whose coaching record is 336-72-23 in 26 years at Calvert Hall.

Comparing Kremer to Ramos, said Karpovich, is "a good analogy." They are near mirror images physically, with Ramos being among the U.S. team's most highly skilled players.

"He's [Kremer] got the distribution and vision, and he's willing to do the dirty work away from the ball -- like making runs -- to make things happen," said Karpovich.

"Plus he's matured a lot, and he's not that real little guy anymore. He's got that toughness they demand at the regional and national level."

As UMBC's leading scorer with nine goals and an assist last fall, Kremer led the Retrievers (12-9) to the league title in the Big South Conference.

"We played him as a wing midfielder, and he dominated the game at times with his speed and ball work," said UMBC coach Pete Caringi, a Calvert Hall graduate. "He worked on the physical part of his game and held up well when keyed on."

Kremer said, "Pete's the main reason I went to UMBC. He's really good working with you one-on-one, and he's also like your best friend. I'm playing so much now to stay in shape and keep my skills up, so when I come back [to UMBC] this year, it'll be like I never left the field."

Lately, it seems Kremer doesn't leave the pitch, spending nearly as much time there as in his Gardenville home near Overlea.

Between devoting three hours daily to two summer school courses and working five hours twice a week, Kremer said, "I rarely get home before 9:30 at night, with a game or a practice every night but Friday."

Playing with both the ODP's under-19 and under-23 teams, Kremer rubs elbows with Calvert Hall graduate Rob Elliott (The Sun's 1989 Player of the Year), 1990 Player of the Year Todd Haskins (Howard), former All-Metros Matt Nesbitt (Wilde Lake) and Hamisi Amani-Dove (Wilde Lake) and two-time Washington Post All-Metro pick Mark Jonas (Bowie).

As a member of the Baltimore Spirit in Columbia's Summer League, Kremer plays alongside UMBC teammate and former All-Metro Bryan Bugarin, his former Calvert Hall teammate. Kremer's Baltimore Summer League team, featuring former All-American Sonny Askew (Patterson), played its first game last night.

Kremer will know his hard work has paid off the first time a small child approaches him for an autograph this fall, which happened often last year.

"At first, you feel like a big shot," said Kremer. "But you respect the fact that you're a role model, that someone's looking up to you."

It'll also remind Jerry Jr. of his growing soccer reputation, and as Caringi said, "As a professional or an Olympian, J. J.'s got a great soccer future."

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