LOS ANGELES–Four high school standouts—6-10 middle blocker Sam Lewis of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High, 6-7 middle blocker Mitch Haly of Corona del Mar (Calif.) High, 5-10 libero Cole Paxson of Laguna Beach (Calif.) High and 6-6 outside hitter Noah Franklin of Huntington Beach (Calif.) High—have signed letters of intent with the USC men’s volleyball program and will join the Trojan program in the fall of 2017, Trojan head coach Jeff Nygaard announced today (Nov. 15).
“We are thrilled to welcome the Class of 2017,” said Nygaard. “We feel confident these players will fit nicely into our program. They each bring talent and skill that will help us get to the championship level.”
Lewis was the 2016 Long Beach Press-Telegram Dream Team Player of the Year as a junior. He then helped the USA Volleyball Boys Youth National Team win a silver medal at the 2016 NORCECA U19 Continental Championship in Havana, Cuba, and qualify for the 2017 FIVB Boys U19 World Championship in Bahrain. He was a member of the Team Rockstar Volleyball Club that won a 17 Open bronze medal at the 2016 Junior Olympics and the High Line Volleyball Club that won a 16 Club bronze at the 2014 Junior Olympics. At 6-10, he will be tied for the second tallest Trojan volleyball player ever (with Szilard Kovacs and Chris McKniff, behind 6-11 Phil Small). His brother, Cameron Jones, played basketball at Northern Arizona (2008-11) and then professionally in the NBA Development League (Fort Wayne and Santa Cruz) and in Russia, Israel and Greece, while his cousin, Landry Fields, played basketball at Stanford (2007-10) and then with the New York Knicks (2011-12) and Toronto Raptors (2013-15).
Haly made the 2016 Orange County Register All-Orange County honorable mention, Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team and All-Pacific League first team as a junior while getting 186 kills and 54 blocks. As a member of the Balboa Bay Volleyball Club, he won an 18 Open gold medal at the 2016 Junior Olympics after getting a 17 Club silver in the 2015 Junior Olympics. He helped the SCVA team win a bronze at the 2016 USA Volleyball High Performance Championship. He also played football (getting 33 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles and 2 deflections as a 2016 linebacker) and basketball at Corona del Mar. His brother, Spencer, played volleyball at Stanford (2012-15)
Paxson earned 2016 All-CIF Division 2 first team and Orange County Register All-Orange County honorable mention as a junior libero and setter while getting 332 digs, 155 assists, 10 kills, 9 aces and 9 blocks. As a 2015 sophomore, he made Orange County Register All-Orange County second team and All-Orange Coast League second team while recording 282 digs, 54 assists and 27 aces. Laguna Beach won the 2014 and 2015 CIF Southern California Regional Division III championships. He helped the USA Volleyball Boys Youth National Team win a silver medal at the 2016 NORCECA U19 Continental Championship in Havana, Cuba, and qualify for the 2017 FIVB Boys U19 World Championship in Bahrain. At the Junior Olympics, he was on Balboa Bay Volleyball Club teams that won a 17 Open gold medal in 2016, a 16 Open silver in 2015 (he made the All-Tournament team) and a 15 Open gold in 2014.
Franklin was a 2016 All-Sunset League second team pick as a junior at Huntington Beach (Calif.) High. He was a member of the Team Rockstar Volleyball Club that won a 17 Open bronze medal at the 2016 Junior Olympics. He helped the SCVA team win a bronze at the 2016 USA Volleyball High Performance Championship. He also was on the basketball team at Huntington Beach and he played beach volleyball. His father, Paul, is the director of the videoboards at USC football, basketball and volleyball events.
USC, which has won 4 NCAA titles and been to 14 NCAA Final Fours, is coming off a rebuilding season in 2016 when it went 7-19 overall and 5-17 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation under Nygaard in his first year as head coach. Twelve lettermen return from that team, including at 4 starting spots (3-year starting middle blocker Andy Benesh, 2-year starting outside hitter Lucas Yoder, opposite hitter Jon Rivera and co-starting setter Gert Lisha).
The Trojans begin their 2017 regular season with a non-conference match at Concordia on Jan. 3 and then play in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, meeting host Ohio State on Jan. 6 and then Penn State on Jan. 7 before opening MPSF play at home against Long Beach State on Jan. 11.
News courtesy of USC Athletics.