Waves Train for Team USA

Spencer Wickens

Seven Pepperdine Waves will participate in a USA Volleyball training camp in Anaheim that begins at the end of this month. 

Pepperdine men’s volleyball coach David Hunt and team members Austin Wilmot, Bryce Dvorak, Jaylen Jasper, Joe Karlous, Spencer Wickens and Trey Cole are among 85 collegiate players and national team members who will take part in the event set to being on July 28 and run for over a week at the National Teams Training Center.

The volleyball spectacle is a joint practice session for the Men’s Collegiate National Training Team, the Under-21 Men’s National Training Team and the Under-19 Boys National Training Team. A June 11 statement from USA Volleyball called the group of players participating in the camp some of best of the next generation of men’s volleyball players. 

“They have their eyes on the Olympic Games Paris 2024, Los Angeles 2028 and beyond,” the statement reads. 

Twenty-nine of the players are from California. Pepperdine has the most athletes—six—participating in the event. Waves coach David Hunt, who has participated and coached USA Volleyball squads for over a decade, said the Waves players’ participation at the camp shows that Pepperdine is recruiting topnotch players who are continuing the legacy of partaking in national team volleyball that was started by legendary Waves coach Marv Dunphy.

“It speaks to the caliber of athletes that are coming in,” Hunt said. “Our university attracts good people that are good volleyball players. We are pretty fortunate in that regard.”

Hunt will serve as an assistant coach of the Men’s Collegiate National Training Team. Wickens, a senior outside hitter; Wilmot, a senior middle blocker; and the opposite Jasper, a graduate transfer from Stanford, are on that squad’s 26-person roster. 

Sophomores Dvorak, a setter, and Cole, a libero, with the junior setter Karlous are on the Under-21 Men’s National Training Team. That group has 21 members. 

Hunt said being under USA Volleyball’s roof gives the Waves players a chance to train and compete with the best players in the country during a time they normally wouldn’t be able to. 

“I think we get to do that in practice and we are lucky enough that our conference is good,” Hunt said. “But, they never get to be in a gym to replicate a national team gym and environment.”

Hunt said the three U.S. teams training together is a unique experience that will allow the players to refine their skills with athletes who might be on different skill levels. 

“When they are youth-age kids, they are only playing against guys that are similar in age and when they get to college they are maybe playing against guys that are four or five years older,” he said. “When they are playing professionally, there can be a 10- [or] 12-year gap. The sooner they get exposed to that the better.” 

The multiday practice coincides with the Olympic Games in Japan. Since the players training in Anaheim won’t compete internationally this year, USA Volleyball invited the U19 programs from Bulgaria, Canada and Puerto Rico to attend the session and aid in creating a strong international friendly experience. 

As a coach, Hunt hopes to learn from the athletes and other coaches. 

“It’s always something you want to be around,” he said. “As soon as you get in that environment you are just trying to train your team or whoever you are working with.” 

The Waves have one former player who will compete on the volleyball court for a gold medal in Tokyo. Kim Hill, a 2012 Pepperdine graduate, is an outside hitter on the Women’s National Team. She has been a member of the squad since 2013 and has won medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics, various FIVB competitions, the Pan American Cup and NORCECA Continental Championship.