Kodiaks Men's Volleyball announces 2015-16 recruiting class

Kodiaks MVB taps into rural Southern Alberta and Calgary for recruits

            New Men’s Volleyball Coach Mike Hawkins is pleased to announce to signing of three local recruits, who come from non-traditional volleyball schools in Southern Alberta: Carter Hansen, Magrath (Magrath High School), Garret Gillespie, Vulcan (County Central High School) and Mike Hummel, Picture Butte (Immanuel Christian High School) and Calgary native, Nathan DeJong.

            “I think the commitment of these three athletes, coming from rural Southern Alberta, speaks to the fact that our sport is growing outside of the city of Lethbridge. In a region that is dominated by basketball and football, I could not be more excited in adding these three athletes who come from Magrath, Vulcan, and Picture Butte.”  The addition of Nathan DeJong from Calgary will join current Kodiak Marcus Biesheuvel to form a dynamic setting duo this upcoming year.

                 Carter Hansen is an extremely exciting recruit who made a name for himself after being selected to the Top 30 17U Team Alberta training program in the summer of 2014. Using the experiences gained from that training environment, Carter led his Magrath High School team to a 3A ASAA Provincial Championship, which could be largely credited to Hansen’s extraordinary play. “While still being relatively raw to the game of volleyball, Carter possesses physical talents that you just can’t teach. He is a natural athlete who is only scratching the surface of his volleyball potential”, says Hawkins, after seeing those talents first hand during this past club season. “I am looking forward to helping Carter refine his technical skill base to match his incredibly athletic ability. He has the potential to dominate at our level”.

 Garret Gillespie is an athlete who used his time playing under his current coaches to his advantage, improving tremendously during the course of his first club season this past year.  “When I first saw Garret play during 1A/2A zones that were held at the College, I couldn’t help but sit back and marvel at this tall, lanky kid. Back then, he was just as likely to shock you with an incredible play as he was with a play that showed a lack of experience with this sport. Given his intense work ethic and desire to be the best he possibly can, those incredible plays come much more often.” It isn’t just Hawkins and McLaughlin who have started to take notice of Garret’s potential.  “During an exhibition tournament with the Jr Kodiaks, called Best of the West, which profiles the best club teams in Western Canada, Ken and I had a number of university coaches approach us to ask about Garret. He possesses the type of height, length, and raw ability that CIS coaches drool over, and I have no doubt he will end up playing in the Canada West in a few years.”

  Mike Hummel, another player who excelled in the Jr Kodiaks program, hung up his basketball shoes in an effort to pursue post-secondary volleyball. Graduating from Immanuel Christian High School, Mike is another athlete who possesses some incredible physical abilities while still being new to the game of volleyball. Coached by Kodiaks Men's Volleyball alumnus Nathan Watson during his time with the ICS Eagles, Mike has a great foundation of skills from which to build off of. “Mike is an athletic freak, and I mean that in the best way possible. He can do some things on the volleyball court that make you shake your head and ask those around you, “did he really just do that?”. As an undersized Middle during the club season, Mike was able to use his athleticism to his advantage to go toe-to-toe with the best players in the province. “It became sort of a running joke with our club team that opposing players couldn’t stop him, and they sure couldn’t hit around him. In one quarterfinal, Mike went up against arguably the best middle in the province, who has since been selected to the Youth National Team, and absolutely dominated him. I don’t think Mike understands how good he is yet, but I’m excited to help him and everyone else see the type of volleyball player our coaching staff knows he can become”.  Adds Hawkins: “I think the signing of Carter, Garret, and Mike shows that the game of volleyball is growing in Southern Alberta. These athletes are starting to see the benefits of playing club volleyball, that they can continue on and play post-secondary and earn athletic scholarships. I am confident this trend will continue for years to come. We have great coaches all around Southern Alberta, and these smaller, rural schools are producing some talented volleyball players.”

Nathan honed his craft playing for the reputable Elite West Volleyball Club under coaches Fraser Macleod and Brad Kilb. “Nathan is an exciting setter who has a really good understanding of the game. As a setter, you need to have a high volleyball IQ and sense of your teammates to be successful, and Nathan already possesses those skills at a young age. He has had incredible coaching growing up, and that is evident by his high level technical skills.”   DeJong will look to battle with Biesheuvel for the starting spot, a challenge Hawkins feels will benefit both setters. “The best way to improve as individuals on a team is to have competition amongst your roster. Marcus and Nathan are two talented setters, who are only going to benefit going head to head every day at practice.  They will learn from one another, but deep down, they both want to compete for a spot in our starting lineup”.  As Hawkins looks to take over the program from former coach Ian Bennett, there are certain values he wants to continue to instill that he believes DeJong embodies, and will set a great foundation for future recruits. “I am very clear with our athletes, and those we recruit, that our program is going to possess certain qualities and values that are integral to success. Nathan is an incredibly hard-working and dedicated athlete, and fits in perfectly to the type of program we are continuing to build. When I first watched Nathan play and was introduced to him from Ken (McLaughlin, Asst. Coach), what stood out to me besides his talents as a setter was the way he interacted with his teammates. Like Ken described him, he is a “salt-of-the-earth” type of guy, and I’m absolutely thrilled to have him as a part of our program.” Adds McLaughlin, “this recruiting class for Alberta had a lot of setters available, but it was DeJong that we targeted early because of his intangibles. He's a learner who is always evolving. I've been lucky to be around him at Volleyball Alberta Camps and Team Alberta for the past few summers and he's always in a perpetual state of growth. This bodes well for Kodiaks Volleyball and Nathan’s career." Another philosophy Hawkins looks to instill in the program is the idea of developing Kodiak athletes into future CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport, university league) athletes. Hawkins believes DeJong, and a number of current athletes, will display the benefits of going to the ACAC to develop before making the leap to the CIS. “There is a scary trend in Alberta that a lot of athletes are going straight from high school to CIS, only to sit on the bench for two, three,  even four years before they get to see the court. I want to bring in those athletes and develop them in our program, expose them to the stresses and anxieties of our long, tough season, then graduate as many as possible to the CIS. I believe we have a number of athletes, including Nathan, who are destined for that path, and our coaching staff is looking forward to being an integral part of their development to the highest level of volleyball our country has to offer.”