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UB's Cicerone becomes first Big 4 player ever picked in MLS SuperDraft

On the heels of a record-setting career at the University at Buffalo, attacker Russell Cicerone became the first Big 4 player ever to be chosen in the MLS SuperDraft, going No. 76 overall - the 10th pick of the fourth round - to the Portland Timbers.

The four-time All-Mid-American Conference selection, 2015 MAC Player of the Year and second-leading scorer in UB history, Cicerone held his own at the Major League Soccer Combine from Jan. 8-12 and has now taken the next step toward achieving his professional dream.

"I'm very excited to start my professional career," said Cicerone in a message Tuesday. "All I needed was a chance and the Portland Timbers have given that to me. I am very grateful and ready to work hard."

Although pre-draft speculation put Cicerone's stock around late-first to mid-second round, the Bulls star had to wait an extra few days to learn his destination, as rounds three and four of the draft were held via conference call on Tuesday.

One year removed from being crowned MLS champions, Caleb Porter's Timbers squad disappointed in 2016, finishing seventh in the Western Conference and missing the postseason entirely. Before Porter took the Timbers job, he was the head coach of Akron, a Mid-American Conference rival of the University at Buffalo Bulls.

Typically, draft picks in the third and fourth rounds spend their first year or more trying to impress at their club's respective United Soccer League affiliate. Portland Timbers 2 play in the minor league's Western Conference, in which they finished ninth in 2016.

A fierce, emotional competitor, Cicerone dazzled fans and befuddled defenses in his four years in Amherst, helping Stu Riddle's Bulls to the Mid-American Conference title game in both of his upperclassman years.

[Feature: How hockey-crazed Michigan built Cicerone into a soccer pro]

The Michigan native, who spent a year with FC Buffalo and later earned Premier Development League Finals MVP for the Michigan Bucks, wrapped up his career with 106 points, just nine behind record-holder Steve Butcher. Cicerone was also the first Big 4 player to be invited to the league's combine, an achievement you can read more about here.

And who could ever forget this special moment?

[Related: Sweet Home graduate Liam Callahan becomes first Section VI alum to be drafted]

Email Ben Tsujimoto at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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