Showing up to a John Cook volleyball practice 5 minutes late was certainly bad enough.
But Nebraska players arriving late while dressed in Halloween costumes of … their coaches and staff members?
“I remember being so scared to even walk out there,” former Husker setter Kelly Hunter said. “Is he going to be ticked that we’re making practice late?”
Hunter, then a senior, had dressed up as none other than Cook.
“I had this black wig,” she said, “and I dumped some baby powder in it to make it more the appropriate hair color.”
You understand, then, Hunter’s hesitation. Not to mention Nebraska was entering its most important stretch of the season. Perhaps not the best time for jokes.
Cook’s reaction allowed players to exhale.
“I’ve never see him laugh so hard,” Hunter said. “He thought it was great.”
In fact, Cook gave the team 20 minutes to change clothes and said practice would start at 3:30 instead of 3.
“We were not expecting that at all,” Hunter said. “But that was definitely one of my favorite moments.”
Hunter shared some the most memorable moments and highlights of her Nebraska career during a recent webinar of former Husker student-athletes answering questions to Nebraska donors. Alex Gordon, Isaiah Roby, Chantae McMillan and Jaime Seeman also participated.
The Halloween practice story reminded Hunter of the close-knit, team-first atmosphere she enjoyed at Nebraska. That was far different than playing professionally overseas, where players are rarely with the same club or coach for more than two years, tops.
“I found out that was something that I really valued, especially being a Nebraska kid and playing for Nebraska,” Hunter said. “There’s nothing that beats that family.”
Hunter’s passion remains volleyball, and because she’s no longer playing, she figured that continuing her career as a coach seemed like the logical next step. And what better place to start that path than with the family feel of Nebraska?
Of course, Hunter’s first few months as a full-time interim assistant coach for Cook haven’t gone exactly according to plan. The global pandemic shutdown has greatly affected her position, most importantly in a recruiting capacity.
“Obviously with all this stuff going on,” Hunter said, “it hasn’t been the true test of coaching for me.”
Hunter began recruiting Feb. 14, only about a month before the shutdown of sports.
“I got to go on a couple of recruiting trips, the biggest one in Kansas City, just a giant tournament,” Hunter said. “I got to learn from Coach Cook and Jaylen (Reyes) that weekend. Then I went on one more trip, to St. Louis, by myself.”
Still, being able to dive in behind the scenes to see the ins and outs of a collegiate program has been rewarding.
“Overall, everything I’ve been introduced to and learned from our staff, it’s been awesome,” Hunter said. “I’ve had a lot of fun even though it’s been an interesting first trial run.”
Roby Healing During Break
Nebraska’s first NBA Draft selection in 20 years has experienced an eventful first year in his new profession.
Since Isaiah Roby went to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft, the NBA has mourned the deaths of former star Kobe Bryant and former commissioner David Stern. Roby himself went through an unexpected trade, has been battling an undisclosed injury and now is sitting out through an unprecedented pandemic.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Roby, traded to Oklahoma City in January. “You know it’s a business when you first get into it, but you don’t really know it until you actually get a taste of the business.”
Roby told webinar viewers he’s been using the current shutdown as a time to rehab his injury and trying to stay active as possible. He’s currently in Oklahoma City, as teams are beginning to call players back to their respective cities in anticipation of resuming/concluding the 2019-20 season in some form.
“It looks really optimistic right now,” Roby said. “The players want to play, the coaches want to play, the owners want to play. We’re all on the same page as far as that goes. We’re just trying to figure out if we’re going straight to the playoffs or do a few regular season games.”
Orlando, Florida, seems a likely option for a centralized location for all games.
“We’re trying to iron all the details out,” Roby said. “Hopefully sooner than later, we have some NBA basketball back.”
“The Titan Games” Challenging for McMillan, Seeman
Former Nebraska track and field star Chantae McMillan (above) accepted an Instagram invitation to try out for the NBA series “The Titan Games” because she wanted to challenge herself in a different way as she prepares for the 2021 Olympics.
From a physical standpoint, none of the “ridiculous challenges” on the show will help McMillan whatsoever in her javelin throws.
Mentally, however, is a different story.
“On last Monday’s show, you could see I’m up there trying to pull a pole, and I couldn’t see where my competitor was throughout the whole competition,” McMillan said, “so I’m up there with a big mental battle with myself. ‘How long can I stay in this? Do I want to stay in this? How has she not won yet?’
“But I stayed in it, and like I said, I learned a lot mentally from this.”
Oh, she’s still learning in other ways, too. Just this week she experimented with a new technique that added 5 meters to her javelin throw.
“I’m still learning,” she said. “I don’t understand that. It’s just continuous.”
Seeman, who went by Jaime Borg when she played softball at Nebraska, made the show after sending in a video and application. A doctor and mother of three, Seeman hadn’t had any physical competition since her time at Nebraska ended 13 years ago.
“To put on the uniform, to have all those people cheering, it was something I hadn’t experienced since I left Nebraska. I think I need to keep it rolling.
“I definitely drank the Kool-Aid back into competition mode. It felt good to be out there competing again.”
Jeremiah Sirles, the former Husker football player who hosted the webinar, offered one final question for McMillan.
What’s “The Rock” like?
“I thought he was just a normal guy,” she said of the show’s popular host, Dwayne Johnson. “I didn’t put him on a pedestal or anything when I was first meeting him. I just saw him as an inspiration. His work ethic is what I see. I tried to feed off him and his energy.
“I thought he’d be a little bit taller, but he is huge.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.
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