Men’s volleyball transfer Jaylen Jasper excelling for Pepperdine

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Pepperdine men's volleyball star Jaylen Jasper serves against UC Irvine earlier this season. Jasper is in his second season with the Waves after transferring from Stanford. Photo by Jeff Golden.

Some days Pepperdine Waves men’s volleyball player Jaylen Jasper questions whether he should have transferred from Stanford to Pepperdine to continue his All-American collegiate volleyball career. 

Then, the graduate student, who graduated from Stanford in 2021, glances out of his window and takes in the Maliview. 

“One of my favorite things in the world is the beach,” Jasper said during a February interview. “I’m really looking at the ocean right now from my room. I think about how happy I am here at Pepperdine. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.” 

It has been a winning decision so far, and it showed last weekend in a pair of games against his former team in Palo Alto. Jasper rang up 47 kills in the two matches in the games the Waves split against the Stanford Cardinal. 

The 6-foot-7 outside hitter posted a career-high .783 hitting percentage with 20 kills in Pepperdine’s 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-22) win over Stanford on Feb. 18. He also tallied four digs, one block, and one ace. 

The next day, the Cardinal defeated the Waves in five sets (25-20, 20-25, 17-25, 25-23, 12-15), but Jasper still starred. He led Pepperdine with 27 kills on a .396 hitting percentage and had seven digs. 

The 23-year-old, who is not shy about wearing a smile on face or grooving a bit if music is playing while on the court, is one Pepperdine’s top players. Last season, he was named an AVCA All-American honorable mention and was also an All-MPSF honorable mention. Jasper was named the MPSF Offensive Player of the Week once in 2022, and he tallied 33 kills in a game last February, the most by a Pepperdine player since 2009. He helped the Waves qualify for the NCAA Tournament. 

At press time, Jasper had won the offensive player honor twice this season and the Waves are one of the top teams in the nation. He credited his team for helping him gain win the weekly offensive honor. 

“The weeks I won it we were playing really well,” Jasper recalled. “Sure I can be the on to put the ball on the ground, but things happen before that. There has to be a pass. There has to be a set. It wasn’t just me.” 

He began Pepperdine’s season in January focused on helping the team have a successful 2023 campaign.

“I’m happy with the way the team and I have been playing,” Jasper explained. “It’s really reflective of the work we put in during the preseason. I’m happy with how things are going. As the season goes on we are going to continue to get in a groove and be more comfortable.”

Pepperdine entered its home game against Grand Canyon on Wednesday ranked seventh nationally with a 9-5 record.

The Waves downed Lincoln Memorial and then The Master’s at the start of the season. The team has also beat Emmanuel, Princeton, Lewis, NJIT, George Mason, and UC Santa Barbara. Pepperdine was on a three-game losing streak before defeating Stanford. 

The Waves host Grand Canyon again on Friday at 12 p.m. They play at Hawai’i on March 1 and 3. The team hosts USC on March 9 and 11. 

Jasper began playing volleyball after his sophomore year of high school in Maryland. The former basketball player was the 2017 Volleyball Magazine High School Player of the Year and the nation’s top recruit when he committed to Stanford his senior year. 

Jasper was a three-time AVCA All-American honorable mention at Stanford, but like the rest of the college sporting world, his time on the volleyball court was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. He opted out of the 2021 season. 

Jasper decided to leave Stanford after the university considered cutting a number of its sports programs — including men’s volleyball — because of the financial deficit the pandemic caused. The NCAA gave all college athletes an extra of eligibility because so many teams had their seasons cancelled in the spring of 2020. 

So, Jasper decided to transfer to Pepperdine, his second collegiate choice after the Bay Area university. 

“I knew where I wanted to go,” he said. “Choosing to leave Stanford and my team wasn’t easy, especially when I found out they were bringing the team back, but by that time I already made plans to leave.”

Jasper enjoyed playing for former Waves coach David Hunt last season, and said he also likes competing for new Pepperdine coach Jonathan Winder, a past Pepperdine star. 

“He has our best interest at heart as athletes and as human beings,” Jasper said of the first-season Waves coach.

Jasper, who is getting his Master’s degree in clinical psychology, is enjoying his last season of college volleyball.

“I’m happy to be here,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be here. Sometimes, I’m jealous of my own life because I can’t believe it is real.”