Older high school students are pressured by their peers to play basketball and volleyball.
“I hear it all the time,” said 6-foot-6 Hononegah junior Brandon Beck. “Especially basketball. “You have to play basketball.” ”
But apparently you don’t have to play both. NIC-10 basketball players do not play volleyball. Or vice versa.
Except in Hononegah.
None of the 15 all-conference volleyball players this fall, for example, played basketball in the winter. But Hononegah bucks that two-decade trend on the boys’ side. One of the reasons Hononegah (11-0, 7-0) has a chance to be the best team in the short history of six seasons of NIC-10 men’s volleyball because four juniors play both basketball and volleyball.
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“I love both games,” said Adam Steege, who is 6-5.
Basketball and volleyball go hand in hand
Both seem like natural sports to double down on.
“Basketball footwork definitely transfers here,” Beck said. “It’s easy to fix. Volleyball is easier to learn than basketball. If you are tall, you can defend well. You don’t have to do a lot of overtaking. Just jump and block.
“There’s a lot to learn,” said 6-5 Chase Kemmett, who is relatively new to volleyball. “But from basketball you can apply those natural athletic skills of jumping and hitting over the net and using your body control. It definitely helped me with volleyball.
Kemmett said he’s starting to hear about a few other players attempting the basketball-volleyball double, but Hononegah has a big advantage so far. Partly because coach Annie Curran’s husband is the Hononegah JV boys’ basketball coach.
And also partly because Braydon Savitski-Lynde, a 6-6 junior, is Hononegah’s best inside big man in basketball and volleyball. He grew up playing volleyball, his father’s favorite sport, and when he switched to volleyball in the spring, some of his basketball teammates naturally followed.
“Braydon played that, so I tried,” Beck said. “I like hanging out with everyone.”
“I always wanted to play,” Savitski-Lynde said. “Volleyball isn’t that big here, so I haven’t had many chances, but I’ve done it all my life.”
Crossover is rare in Rockford
Playing both sports is much more common in smaller schools. Whitney Kieffer led Scales Mound to a second-place finish in the state Class 1A Volleyball Tournament and River Ridge/Scales Mound to second place in the state in women’s basketball as a senior in 2011. Sophie Brunner, a three-time All-Pac-12 Arizona State player who led Aquin to back-to-back 1A women’s basketball titles in 2012-13, also started on Aquin’s volleyball team during the four years.
But these are rarities. For example, Lucy Arndt, who led the Aquin State volleyball semifinalists this year, didn’t play basketball. And it is almost non-existent in class 3A or 4A.
“It’s a hot topic,” Brunner said. “I know a lot of coaches are frustrated because the girls aren’t playing basketball because they’re playing volleyball. Club sports are becoming big business for kids who want to play at a high level in college. They think they need to play for a bigger club to get more exposure. In the end, it’s what the family thinks is best for the situation.
There’s also the worry of volleyball players getting injured in basketball – although the injury concern isn’t as great for early basketball players going through the volleyball season.
“The only way to really get hurt in volleyball is to jump constantly,” Kemmett said. “It can wear on your knees. But there’s not as much chance of getting hurt as in basketball or football or something like that.
“There is so much more contact in basketball. Rebounding, playing defense, even attacking, when you go up there is so much more contact. On a volleyball court, you rarely touch each other.
“But in any sport,” Brunner said, “there’s a risk of getting hurt. Or you might never get hurt. Basketball is a more physical sport, but in volleyball there’s still has plenty of knee and shoulder hits with jumps, blocks and strikes.
Hono’s Natural Dual-Sport Athletes
These three skills favor tall players. Which makes Hononegah’s four junior crossovers a natural for their new sport. As for shot-blocking ability, no one in the NIC-10 did better during the basketball season than Savitski-Lynde, who easily led the league with 2.3 blocked shots per game. It is also one of his specialties on the volleyball court.
“A huge basketball skill that has helped me since I was a post player is footwork to block,” Savitski-Lynde said. “But with basketball, you always know where the ball is going: they try to shoot it straight into the basket, so you try to stay between them and the basket.
“In volleyball, it’s a huge mind game. You jump, press, move your hands in different ways, try to block them because you think they cross. There’s a lot more to it than ‘Don’t let the ball go into the hoop’. ”
And there’s a lot more to Hononegah’s power play than one or two great players at net. Hononegah is four 6-5 or 6-6 on his basketball team alone. This goes hand in hand with Hononegah standing atop NIC-10.
“Size isn’t a talent, but it’s a big part of both sports,” Steege said.
Matt Trowbridge is a sportswriter for the Rockford Register Star. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MattTrowbridge. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com.