Hooker digs it -- finally
Oct. 23, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas outside hitter Destinee Hooker admits that she used to be afraid of the ball. Though, as her All-America honors suggest, she was never afraid of hitting the ball -- just the ball hitting her.
"If the ball came to me, I would dodge out of the way," Hooker explains. "I don't think it was my objective to pass. I would rather get out of the way, and let everyone else pass."
That made Hooker a liability in the back row, and as a result, head coach Jerritt Elliott would pull her to the bench during those rotations. But Hooker knew that if she truly wanted to help her team, she needed to stay on the floor for an entire match. And that meant overcoming some fears, and putting in some extra reps in the practice gym, so that when Hooker did go to pass, the ball ended up in the right place.
This season, Hooker leads the team in kills per set -- no surprise -- but she's also second on the team in digs, with 2.40 digs per set. She's carded six of her 19 career double-doubles this season.
Earlier this week in a sweep victory against Missouri, Hooker led the team with 19 kills and 10 digs.
"I'm more comfortable," Hooker says. "When the ball comes to me, I know what I'm supposed to do, what arm pattern to create. I don't really worry about the digs, I just worry about getting the ball to my setter."
During practice, the Longhorns tape a box on the floor, providing a target for passers. The goal is not making the setter move to catch up to a pass. If the setter can remain stationary, that leaves a better chance to find the best offensive option on that play.
"From the first grade, we learn that passing is the main thing," UT setter Michelle Kocher says. "It can make or break you."
Hooker also realized it could make or break her on the court. She was always contributing with her offense, but to become a trusted all-around weapon, Hooker knew she had to put herself in front of the ball -- and not be afraid of it hitting her, or her hitting the floor.
Along with her high-flying tricks around the net, Hooker has also wowed the Gregory Gym crowds this season with digs that required her lanky frame to go down to the floor, and do the splits.
"I was a setter in the seventh grade, and I know exactly how it feels to run all over the place. All I want to do is give our outside hitters an opportunity to hit the ball," Hooker says.
Of course, Hooker jokes that it only took her four years of college play to become a reliable passer.
"I found my rhythm -- finally," she says.
Elliott is as thankful as anyone, since it gives his team even more options.
"Destinee continues to improve," Elliott says. "She has a lot more confidence, and continues to be a bright spot. That's maturity."