How good is recently graduated Pacifica Christian senior outside hitter Alex Knight?
“That guy was absolutely phenomenal,” Ocean View coach Joshua Nehls told the Daily Pilot newspaper after his team lost to Pacifica of Santa Monica, Calif., in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoff semifinals.
“Plain and simple, the best guy on the court. He looked bored.”
While an obvious compliment, the 6-foot-6 Knight, the No. 1 recruit in the country based on voting by an elite panel of NCAA Division I-II men’s college coaches in the recently released 2019 VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50, turned in the farthest thing from a boring season this spring.
The UCLA-bound standout helped lead the Sea Wolves to the Southern Section Division 5 championship match, where he posted 35 kills in a loss to El Modena.
Accordingly, Knight also is the 2019 VolleyballMag.com boys high school player of the year and tops our All-American team. The complete list, dominated this year by players from California, follows.
“I got better this year at learning how to compete,” Knight said. “Before when I went into matches, I didn’t have a purpose. Now I know ways to compete. I definitely got better with the mental side of the game, instead of it being 100-percent physical.”
Chris Austin, Knight’s current club coach with Pac 6, said Knight possesses the right mixture of long and athletic.
“Not just for someone 6-6, but for a youth athlete in general,” Austin said. “Alex has really good instincts for where the ball will be and how to go about contacting it.”
Knight regards himself as a well-rounded player.
“It’s just the ability to do every skill,” he said. “I don’t do one skill better than the rest. I’m solid and that allows me to do any part of the game and do what it takes to succeed. There’s no one skill I have that is above everything else.”
Knight only took up volleyball on a whim during his freshman year of high school.
“I was with a friend playing in a beach tournament my freshman year,” he said. “Before, I was a big baseball guy. I met a kid there named Miles Partain (also headed to UCLA) who said his dad was thinking about starting a club team (Pac 6) and thought I should join. Because of Miles, that’s how I got in the gym.”
JT Hatch, who played at UCLA, coached Knight in club for several years.
“Alex came to the volleyball scene a little late,” Hatch said. “In working with him, he didn’t have a ton of bad habits. He hadn’t done things wrong. Because of that, we were able to shape and mold and teach this guy from the ground up without having to correct things that he had learned wrong.
“He embraced it and ate everything up that we taught him. In the beginning, it was a fun sport for him that he wasn’t super-serious about how people thought of him. He wasn’t worried about making mistakes. When you have that mindset, getting better is really easy.”
Knight said his swift improvement is a bit of a shock.
“I’m very surprised,” he said. “I was originally playing middle blocker and was getting no college looks. For fun, the club director said I should switch to outside hitter for the next tournament. I started getting looks. I was super-shocked to see that, but I played it super-cool.”
Added Austin: “How did Alex get so good in such a short amount of time? I would give that credit to how firmly grounded he is in his faith, how trusting he is of his family, the amount of other sports he’s played in his life, his dabbling in beach volleyball, talented teammates to watch and good coaching.”
Knight is understandably excited about going to UCLA.
“I was also shocked about that,” said Knight, who noted a recent new interest in psychology could lead to a potential major in that field on the Westwood campus. “It’s been my life-long dream to play a sport at UCLA. When I saw them watching me on the court, it was a complete shock.
“I’m super-excited to go there. I love all the coaches and I know the majority of the guys. It’s a super-academically strong school. My dad and mom went there, my grandparents worked there and my sister just graduated from there.”
Knight, a pitcher and center fielder, admitted he was a bit sad giving up baseball.
“I tried to work it out, but both are in the same season and at the same time,” he said. “I had a bad ankle last year so I stopped playing it. I still went to practices this season and helped out when I could.”
Hatch said Knight’s collegiate ceiling is high, but he cautions his star pupil is walking into a “different ballgame.”
“It’s whatever Alex makes it to be,” Hatch said. “There can be a lot of distractions in college. If he goes into it with the same attitude and mindset of making mistakes will help you improve, I think he will be fine. He’s going to have to hit the weight room for sure. Being good at the high school and club levels simply isn’t good enough at the college level. I have extremely high hopes for him. I think he can make it and have a big impact the next couple of years, if not this next year, if he really wants to.”
Austin, who set UC Irvine to an NCAA championship, concurs that Knight has the ability to do great things at UCLA.
“I’m not afraid to tell you he could be a DI player of the year, he could join the men’s senior national team and he could win an NCAA title and play professionally,” Austin said.
“I personally know what each of those things looks like in a player, and he could. But who cares about ‘could’ though? If Alex works and can turn it up a little bit each year and believes in himself to not only be a part of his teams, but to be the leader and the dominant common denominator, then he will up where he is supposed to be.”
Boys High School All-Americans
Will Campbell 6-5 RS-S Sr. Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Dayne Chalmers 6-4 OH Sr. Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Ben Coordt 6-4 OH Soph. Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)
Omar Hoyos 6-7 OH Jr. Archbishop McCarthy (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
Marty Jepsen 6-1 OH Sr. Marist (Chicago, Ill.)
Joe Karlous 6-0 S Sr. Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Kevin Kauling 6-7 OH Sr. Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.)
Alex Knight 6-6 OH Sr. Pacifica Christian (Santa Monica, Calif.)
Aidan Knipe 6-3 S Sr. Huntington Beach (Calif.)
Max Slaughter 6-2 OH Sr. Moanalua (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Luke Turner 6-5 OH Jr. Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Jack Walmer 6-3 S Jr. Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)
Name Ht. Pos. Year High School
Slater Bird 6-1 OH Sr. Westview (San Diego, Calif.)
Inaki Bustamante 6-6 OH Sr. Redondo Union (Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Jack Deuchar 5-11 OH Jr. Punahou (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Bryce Dvorak 6-3 S Jr. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Adam Flood 6-2 OH Sr. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Jack Higgs 6-0 RS Sr. Newport Harbor (Newport Beach, Calif.)
Cole McDaniel 6-0 S Sr. San Clemente (Calif.)
Cole Power 5-11 L Sr. Edison (Redondo Beach, Calif.)
Will Rottman 6-5 MB-OH Sr. San Clemente (Calif.)
Jeremy Sanchez 6-1 OH Sr. Freedom (Orlando, Fla.)
Brian Voight 6-5 S Sr. New Berlin United (New Berlin, Wisc.)
Henry Wedbusch 6-3 S Jr. Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Akin Akinwumi (6-6, OH, Sr., Peninsula, Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.), Braxton Bradbeer (6-2, OH-Libero, Sr., Chandler (Arizona), Mason Briggs (5-11, Libero, Sr., Bishop Alemany, Valencia, Calif.), Taylan Cook (6-2, Libero, Sr., Sage Creek, San Diego, Calif.), JT DeMure (6-4, OH, Sr., Granite Bay (Calif.), Jack Driscoll (6-4, S-RS, Sr., Sachem North (Lake Ronkonkoma, New York), George Dyer (6-2, S-OH, Sr., Saddleback Valley Christian, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Nathaniel Gates (6-8, OH, Sr., La Jolla (San Diego, Calif.), Cole Gillis (6-4, OH, Sr. Branham, San Jose, Calif.), Clarke Godbold (6-5, RS, Jr., Peninsula, Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.), Gabe Hartke (6-4, OH, Sr., Barrington (Ill.), Wil McPhillips (6-4, OH, Sr., Lincoln-Way East (Frankfort, Ill.), Caden Perkins (6-8, OH, Sr., El Modena (Orange, Calif.), Braden Richard (6-5, RS, Sr., Central York (York, Pennsylvania), Jack Shampine (6-5, OH, Sr., Glenbrook South (Glenview, Ill.), Justin Sharfenaker (6-5, RS, Sr., Columbus Briggs (Columbus, Ohio), Zach Schneider (6-6, OH, Sr., Lockport (New York), Griff Walters (6-6, S-RS, Sr., El Camino (Sacramento, Calif.), Rico Wardlow (6-5, OH-MB, Sr., Bolingbrook (Ill.), Michael Wright (6-3, OH, Sr., Deep Run (Glen Allen, Virginia)
Wednesday: Our national team of the year