When putting together this year’s boys high-school All-American team, VolleyballMag.com faced a dilemma of sorts.
What to do with Jaylen Jasper.
He was the nation’s top prep/club player. But the high school he attended in Annapolis, Md., does not have a boys volleyball program. So Jasper is not eligible to receive this year’s boys’ high-school player of the year award.
However, his achievement as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2017, as voted on for VolleyballMag.com by a panel of NCAA Division I-II coaches, most certainly deserves to be recognized and celebrated.
The 6-foot-7 Jasper, a pin hitter who is headed to play for John Kosty at Stanford, played club for the Annapolis Volleyball Club and also spent time with the Ocean Bay VBC of Florida. Jasper was the Maryland player of the Year as a sophomore at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md. Jasper, who can touch nearly 12 feet, then transferred to Broadneck High School in his hometown of Annapolis, which does not sponsor a boys volleyball program. But Jasper also has extensive USA Volleyball pipeline experience.
VolleyballMag.com caught up with Jasper recently and talked about his rise in the sport in a short amount of time, the family coaching background he comes from, as well as his thoughts on playing for Stanford.
VBM: You already are at Stanford?
Jasper: I got out here June 23 to take classes and train. It’s been going great. First of all, going from the East Coast to the West Coast is something. There’s nicer humidity and no bugs. And all the students in my classes are so smart. I feel smarter being around them. I love it so much here.
VBM: In terms of your volleyball career, you came to the dance a bit late, correct?
Jasper: I started playing volleyball the end of my freshman year in high school. I got involved because my sister started playing her freshman year. When she started playing club, I would go to her practice sometimes and the coach would ask if I wanted to play. They taught me some things and I said to myself, “I really like this.” I went out and started playing. Sophomore year was my first year of club volleyball. It’s been amazing.
VBM: Basketball was your sport before volleyball?
Jasper: I started playing basketball when I was 8. It was pretty much all I would do every day. I played AAU basketball but gave that up. It was too much time and too serious and wasn’t fun.
I decided my junior year that I would stop playing basketball. I had played basketball for 10 years and started to get tired of the same old thing. I wanted something new. It turns out I was good at volleyball and have kept hanging with it.
VBM: How limited was your high-school volleyball career?
Jasper: I had one season. I couldn’t play my freshman year because I hurt my back. I played my sophomore year and then transferred schools and my new school (Broadneck where he spent his junior and senior years) didn’t have a team. Only a few high schools in Maryland have boys volleyball teams and its mostly private schools that have programs.
VBM: How much has your father’s coaching background helped you (Ivin Jasper is Navy’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and previously coached at Georgia Southern and Indiana State)?
Jasper: I was born in Southern California but have lived in Maryland since I was little. My dad always told me to find something you like and give it everything you have. For me it’s volleyball. I put my heart and soul into it all day and every day. My mom and dad have pushed me to be as good as I can be. With my dad being at the Naval Academy, I’ve been able to use resources there over the years in the gyms. I’ve played against some very good people and that has allowed me to get better faster instead of this just being a hobby.
VBM: Are you surprised at all by how quickly you’ve improved in the sport?
Jasper: I still am surprised. It blows my mind that I have only played four years. Some people have played since they were little. It’s crazy to think I’ve come a long way in such a short amount of time. I can’t believe it. And on top of it, I end up at Stanford.
VBM: What are your academic plans at Stanford?
Jasper: I’m thinking along the lines of chemical engineering or political science/pre-law. I’m open to anything really, but those are two things I am genuinely interested in. I’ve always taken schooling seriously. That’s one of the main reasons I picked Stanford. You always have to be a student before you are an athlete.
VBM: How have your interactions with the Stanford men’s team gone thus far?
Jasper: I’m better by just being here. I went and watched one of my friend’s club practices (UCLA recruit Joel Schneidmiller) and Kyle Dagostino (Stanford setter) is one of the coaches there. He is a leader who has a lot of heart. I can’t wait to be part of the Stanford team and everything they are about. I’m all in.