It appears as if UCLA has signed a long-term lease atop the VolleyballMag.com men’s recruiting class rankings.
For the third year in a row, the Bruins have the top-rated class in the country, as voted on by an elite panel of NCAA Division I-II coaches. In addition to incoming freshmen, the ratings also factor in transfers and international players.
The Bruins also had the third-rated class in 2016, giving them four years of top-three-rated recruiting classes under head coach John Speraw.
The gap was decently sizable between UCLA and No. 2-rated Stanford (14 points), which returns in a big way to the list after a year’s hiatus. Stanford had the No. 1 class in 2016, the No. 2 class in 2017, but lowered to honorable-mention status last year.
Both programs had voting scores of either 10, 9 or 8 (pollsters are asked to rank what programs they feel are the top 10-worthy), with one 7 registered for UCLA.
Others notables from this year’s voting include defending national-champion Long Beach State appearing on the list for a fourth year in a row with its highest ranking during that timeframe at No. 3 (following T9, 5 and 10).
UCLA’s haul features two of the top-five recruits in the country (as voted on in the recently released 2019 VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50) in Alex Knight (Pac6 club) and Merrick McHenry (Austin Juniors).
Stanford has three top 5s (there was a three-way tie this year for the fifth spot) in Will Rottman (SB Coast), Kevin Lamp (Sports Performance) and Nathan Lietzke (Austin Juniors).
David Kniffin’s UC Irvine program also has made the top 10 the last four years, checking in at No. 7 this year, following efforts of 4, 6 and 8. Ohio State, under the direction of new head coach Kevin Burch, and Loyola Chicago also have made the top 10 four years running. Loyola’s slash line from 2019-2016 reads 6/5/7/9, while Ohio State goes 10/T9/9/4.
1. UCLA Bruins
New players: Cole Power, 5-10, Libero, Edison, Huntington Beach, California, Balboa Bay; Kyle Vom Steeg 6-7, RS, Aliso Niguel, Aliso Viejo, California, Balboa Bay; Ethan Hill, 6-7, MB, St. Margaret’s, San Juan Capistrano, California, Balboa Bay; Marcus Partain, 6-2, S, Pacific Palisades, California, Pac6; Merrick McHenry, 6-7, OH, Bell, Hurst, Texas, Austin Juniors; Alex Knight, 6-6, OH, Pacifica Christian, Santa Monica, California, Pac6; Mads Kyed Jensen, 6-10, S, Falkovergaardens Gymnasium, Gentofte Volley; Cole Ketrzynski, 6-8, OH, York Mills Collegiate Institute, Pakmen VBC.
Outlook: In addition to the top recruit in the class in Knight and top-five recruit McHenry, this class features a total of six Fab 50 selections. Power, Hill and Knight are members of the U.S. youth national training team. Jensen, a 6-10 setter, has Danish national team experience, while Ketrzynski is a highly touted Canadian youth player and a member of the Canadian youth national team. UCLA had three of the top 5 recruits in the class of 2018 and five Fab 50 selections in 2017, including the No. 3 recruit in the country.
UCLA assistant coach John Hawks feels several players “can impact UCLA right away.”
“We have addressed every need for our program going forward,” he said. “This is an extremely talented group with lots of international experience. When talent is acquired like this, it’s rare to also get a group that has a strong desire to prove something to the volleyball community. They all truly want to be the best on and off the court and they are motivated to work for it. More importantly, we have added some outstanding men who will positively add to our culture for years to come.”
2. Stanford Cardinal
New players: Adam Chang, 6-4, MB, Westview, San Diego, California, Wave; Kevin Lamp, 6-4, OH, Lake Forest, Illinois, Sports Performance; Nathan Lietzke, 6-5, S, St. Andrew’s, Austin, Texas, Austin Juniors; Will Rottman, 6-5, MB, Santa Barbara, California, SB Coast; Nathaniel Gates, 6-8, MB, La Jolla, California, Coast; Gabriel Miranda, 6-5, MB, Redondo Union, Redondo Beach, California, SCVC.
Outlook: Five of the six incoming Cardinal freshmen are Boys Fab 50 selections with Rottman and Lamp tying for the No. 2 recruit in the country honor behind UCLA’s Knight. Stanford recruited Chang and Gates out of the San Diego area, snared Lietzke from Texas and picked up one of numerous Fab 50 selections out of the suburban Chicago-based Sports Performance club. Of note here is Kosty has either the No. 1- or No.2-rated class for the third time in four years (2nd in 2017 and 1st in 2016). Miranda, out of Redondo Beach, California, has some interesting familial sport lineage. His mother, Ana Paula Henkel, is considered one of the best players in Brazil, leading that country to the 1992 and 1996 indoor Olympics, and the 2004 and 2008 Olympics in beach. His father, Marcos, is credited as the father of Brazil’s dynamic fast-tempo offense, which revolutionized international play. His stepfather, Carl Henkel, was an All-American at UCLA (on Al Scates’ 1989 national title team) and played in the 1996 Olympics on the beach with Sinjin Smith.
3. Long Beach State 49ers
New players: Mason Briggs, 5-11, libero, Bishop Alemany, Valencia, California, Legacy; Aidan Grosz, 6-6, MB, St. Anthony, Long Beach, California, Balboa Bay; Nate Harlan, 6-4, OH-RS, Tesoro, Santa Margarita, California, 949; Aidan Knipe, 6-3, S, Huntington Beach California, Team Rockstar; Grant Marocchi, 6-7, MB, Irvine Valley College; Zach Schneider 6-6, OH, Lockport, New York, Lockport VBC; Karl Stenlund, 6-8, OH, Beckman, Tustin, California, OCVC; Shane Holdaway, 6-8, MB, Huntington Beach, California, BYU.
Outlook: Alan Knipe’s 2019-2020 class here is equally impressive with Fab 50 picks in Briggs, Harlan, Knipe, Schneider and Stenlund. Briggs, Knipe (Coach Knipe’s son) and Schneider are U.S. youth national team members.
“Mason, Aidan and Zach are great leaders, have great volleyball IQs and have that USA experience,” Alan Knipe said. “Grant Marocchi (Irvine Valley College) brings great size and athleticism and a year of JC. Karl Stenlund and Nate Harlan bring great size and arms. Both can play either left or right side, and Karl can play middle. We have a lot of size and talent. This group is used to winning. This is a versatile group and a very athletic group. I really like the volleyball IQ and the high character. They will make an instant impact on our team and fit in nicely to our amazing team culture.”
Holdaway, a Huntington Beach High product, transferred in last semester from BYU. Marocchi played at Irvine Valley in 2019 after serving his LDS mission.
4. Pepperdine Waves
New players: Joe Karlous, 5-11, S, Newport Harbor, Newport Beach, California, Balboa Bay; Shane Atkins, 6-6, OH, Rocklin, California, Bay-to-Bay; Akin Akinwumi, 6-6, OH, Peninsula, Rolling Hills Estates, California, Team Rockstar; Scott Solan, 6-8, RS, Palo Verde Las Vegas, Nevada, Vegas United; Michael Scott, 6-5, MB, Carmel, Mundelein, Illinois, Adversity; Auden McCaw, 6-7, utility, Windward School, Los Angeles, California, Team Rockstar; Diego Perez, 6-1, libero, Corona del Mar, Newport Beach, California, Orange Coast College; Austin Wilmot (6-1, MB, UC Irvine)
Outlook: The Waves had the No. 3-rated class a year ago and follow that up with a No. 4 ranking. This year’s incoming batch features four Boys Fab 50 selections in Karlous, who recently helped Newport Harbor win CIF Southern Section and Southern California regional titles and were named the 2019 VolleyballMag.com boys high school team of the year, Akinwumi, Solan and Scott. Akinwumi is one of the top-five recruits in the country in this class. Perez is a transfer from Orange Coast College, while Wilmot, a 6-10 middle, transferred from UC Irvine.
“We lost a lot of production, but we bring in good athletes with great arms,” Pepperdine coach David Hunt said. “These young men have the potential to fill what we lost quickly.”
5. Lewis Flyers
New players: Michael Sack, 6-8, MB, St. Laurence, Burbank, Illinois, Chicago VBC; Inaki Bustamante, 6-6, OH, Redondo Union, Redondo Beach, California, SCVC; Davon Lampkin 6-5, MB, Madison, San Diego, California, Wave VBC; Marty Jepsen, 6-1, OH-libero, Marist Chicago, Illinois, Ultimate; Carter Burzlaff, 6-5, S-RS, Bartlett, Illinois, Pipeline VBC; Jackson Hickman, 6-4, OH, Boulder Creek, Anthem, Arizona, Arizona Fear; Jared Phelan, 6-3, OH, McKinney Boyd, McKinney, Texas, Austin Juniors; Kevin Kauling, 6-8, S, Neuqua Valley, Naperville, Illinois, Sports Performance.
Outlook: Lewis is back in the top 10 after a two-year hiatus (honorable mentions in 2018 and 2017). The Flyers had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country in 2016. The big prize in this class is Kauling, rated the No. 5 recruit in the country in the recent Boys Fab 50 voting. He’s out of the Chicago western suburbs and clubbed at Sports Performance. Sack, Bustamante, Jepsen, Hickman and Kauling are all Boys Fab 50 selections.
“It is a great overall group with several Fab 50 selections and several high school All-Americans,” Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “They will replace a strong core of graduating seniors. We have a player from every position with athleticism, size and skill. These guys will make a lasting impact and some of them will do so right away.”
Phelan is one of several products from an emerging Texas boys scene that has landed on a top 10 recruiting-class team this year.
6. Loyola Chicago Ramblers
New players: Colton Brooks, 6-5, OH, Amador, Sutter Creek, California, Bay-to-Bay; Colman Chadam, 6-5, OH, Monte Vista, Danville, California, Pac Rim; TC Cook, 6-2, libero, Sage Creek, Carlsbad, California, Coast; Anton Frank, 6-10, MB, VCO Berlin; Jake Maffett 6-6, OH, Los Alamitos, California, SCVC; Brian Voight, 6-5, S, New Berlin United, New Berlin, Wisconsin, Milwaukee VBC; Jack Yentz, 6-4, OH, Homestead, Mequon, Wisconsin, Milwaukee VBC.
Outlook: Coach Mark Hulse hits a home run with this class that includes all U.S.-based incoming freshmen being on the 2019 Boys Fab 50 list (6 in total). Frank, out of Berlin, Germany, is the program’s first international recruit in more than a decade.
“Our class brings in some high-level talent and guys that have won consistently throughout their careers,” Hulse said. “Along with our first international recruit in more than a decade, we think this group will raise the level of our gym, increase our competition at a few positions, and help fill the shoes of five graduated seniors lost from 2019.”
7. UC Irvine Anteaters
New players: Garo Barsemian, 6-6, OH-RS, Crescenta Valley, La Crescenta, California, Legacy; Cole Gillis, 6-4, OH, Branham, San Jose, California, Mountain View; Akhil Tangutur, 6-3, OH, Palisades, Pacific Palisades, California, Pac6; Davis Lau, 5-7, Libero, Punahou, Honolulu, Outrigger VBC; Aiden Wolf-Neilson, 6-7, MB, Orange Coast College transfer.
Outlook: Irvine’s recruiting-class efforts have been top-notch in recent years with the Anteaters snaring the No. 1-rated recruit in the country in 2018 (Jonny Bowles) and 2016 (Scott Stadick). This year’s group with Barsemian, Gillis and Tangutur gives the program three more VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50 selections to add to its annals.
8. Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors
New players: Eleu Choy, 5-9, libero, Farrington, Honolulu, Hawai’i, Kuikahi VBC; Chaz Galloway, 6-2, OH, Del Notre, San Diego, California, Wave; Garrett Geiger, 6-5, OH, Fullerton College; Kahea Kamalani, 6-5, OH, Kaiser, Honolulu, Hawai’i, Outrigger; Guilherme Messias Dos Santos, 6-7, MB, Colegio Teresiano High School, Brazil; Dimitrios Mouchlias, 6-7, RS, Hellenic College of Thessaloniki, Greece; Shea Suzumoto, 5-8, libero, Punahou, Honolulu, Hawai’i, Outrigger.
Outlook: Charlie Wade stayed local on Oahu with Choy, Kamalani and Suzumoto. Galloway comes out of the San Diego boys VB scene that is well-represented on this top 10 list. Galloway has USA Volleyball high-performance experience. Mouchilas represented Greece at various national team levels. “Dimitris is one of the top scorers for his age group in Europe for several years,” Wade told the school’s website back in November.
“He’s a quick athlete with a fast jump and arm, and has been part of the Greek national team program.”
Dos Santos has experience with the Brazil U21 national team. Geiger is a transfer from Fullerton College, a JUCO that plays in the Southern California-based Orange Empire Conference. He’s originally out of Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California.
9. Southern California Trojans
New players: Adam Flood, 6-2, OH, Corona del Mar, Newport Beach, California, Balboa Bay; Max Beck, 6-8, MB, Canyon, Anaheim, California, Pulse.
Outlook: The Trojans added Flood and Beck, both 2019 VolleyballMag.com Boys Fab 50 selections. USC returns to the top 10 after a one-year break. The Trojans’ 2017 class was rated third in the country by VolleyballMag.com. Flood comes out of perennial national high-school power Corona del Mar, while Beck brings size in the middle to the Trojans. USC coach Jeff Nygaard said he likes his recruiting class’s “character, hard work, buy-in, academics and hunger.”
10. Ohio State Buckeyes
New players: Sam Clark, 6-6, MB, Loyola Blakefield, Towson, Maryland, TVP; Justin Howard, 6-6, MB, Palisades Charter, Pacific Palisades, California, Pac6; Matt Tompkins, 6-2, OH, Trinity, Euless, Texas, St. Louis HP; Michael Wright, 6-3, S, Deep Run, Glen Allen, Virginia, East Coast VBC.
Outlook: New Buckeyes’ coach Kevin Burch lands in the top 10 with this class that is highlighted by Fab 50 picks Tompkins, out of the Dallas area, and Wright, out of the Richmond, Virginia area.
“Our 2019 class brings elite-level athleticism and a high volleyball IQ,” Burch said. “All four have won at the highest junior levels and have played within the USA pipeline. We’re excited for our incoming Buckeyes to help us open our new, state-of-the-art Covelli Center. We look forward to their positive impact on the program.”
Honorable mention: Princeton, UC Santa Barbara, BYU, Penn State, Lindenwood, George Mason, UC San Diego.