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Vegas Unsigned Showcase Brings Stars Out

Central Cal defender Jocelyn Rodriguez was one of 1,044 standouts at the 2016 PrepVolleyball.com Unsigned Showcase, presented by Spalding

Central Cal defender Jocelyn Rodriguez was one of 1,044 standouts at the 2016 PrepVolleyball.com Unsigned Showcase, presented by Spalding

I cover volleyball year-round.

High school and club.

Nationally.

I’ve been doing that full-time for more than 13 years.

I see a lot of volleyball and watch a lot of kids. Which is why I was surprised, when inspecting the 1,044 juniors and seniors enrolled for our Unsigned Showcase in Las Vegas, presented by Spalding, that I knew so
Less than 50.

As the time for the Showcase neared, I steeled myself for disappointment. Last year’s talent, top to bottom, wasn’t particularly good. I sensed this might be a repeat, even though we were allowing juniors for the first time in 2016.

Was I ever wrong!

senior middle Amina Olajuwon may not be the daughter of the NBA Hall of Famer but she has to be related! Look at the athletic grace and timing!

Senior middle Amina Olajuwon may not be the daughter of the NBA Hall of Famer but she has to be related! Look at the athletic grace and timing!

The talent was as good as I’ve seen, especially in the middle blocker position. Our on-court coaches were gushing, the college coaches, numbering 300 or more, not only liked what they saw, they stayed, start to finish, through four long sessions.

This was an unqualified success. I know we made some love connections last night. I hope we made MANY love connections last night.

Nothing makes me happier than helping dreams become reality.

Xceleration junior Paulina Jensen warms up before the 3 p.m. session. "It’s a routine we do before practice to get our minds in the game and warm up," she said.

Xceleration junior Paulina Jensen warms up before the 3 p.m. session. “It’s a routine we do before practice to get our minds in the game and warm up,” she said.

***

I spent yesterday walking the 16 courts looking for kids to “wow” me. I also checked in several times with Gary Mano in the recruiting seminar room, which was almost always packed. I loved every second of it! A player on every court in every session seemed to demand my attention. And Gary had his audience laughing while at the same time imparting recruiting advice that was worth 10 times the price of admission (free).

I will start with my MVPs. This is my personal preference. A lot of coaches loved a lot of players.

Senior MVP: libero Esti Wilson, Excel NW 18 Rox.

Esti Wilson esti bueno

Esti Wilson esti bueno

Hey, it’s hard to get recruited as a libero, but the on-court coaches couldn’t stop talking about Wilson’s movement skills and her tenacious approach to defense. She was impressive as a leader as well.

Wilson is a fraternal twin. Her sister, Evi, a lefty, is a hitter committed to Eastern Washington. Esti, from Southwest Washington, said the sisters complement each other well on the beach, because she is more defensive-oriented.

Junior MVP: outside hitter Bri Coleman, Legacy 17 Elite

Bri Coleman made her mark

Bri Coleman made her mark

A couple of D-II coaches watching the 6-1 Coleman compress the ball admitted they had no chance but just enjoyed watching her. Her contact point, the pace she put on the ball…it was just different from her peer group.

Interesting thing about Coleman: she played middle for her high school team in 2015. A transfer from Saugus, after sitting out the first 30 days by rule, Valencia HS needed her in the middle, so that’s where she played.

“It took me a while to transition to middle,” she admitted.

With Coleman, who has no volleyball offers yet, as a middle, Valencia made it to the Southern Section finals for the first time in school history. Look for Coleman on the outside for the Vikings next season.

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