Ben Malakoff, Contributing Writer
When volleyball coach Jody Rogers walked into a practice last year, she went over to now junior libero Alyna Draper and told her she was headed to a high school tournament to watch a player named Jasmine Knight.
Draper was caught by surprise that Knight, an old high school teammate, was being looked at by VCU’s coaching staff. Draper gave high praise when speaking about Knight to Rogers, telling her that she was “very good.”
“We used to play in high school and she jumps really high,” Draper said. “So, I was really excited for her [Rogers] to go see her.”
During Draper’s four years at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, the Gators went to three state championships, including winning one during her senior year in 2017.
At that same time, Knight was watching and developing her game while still making an impact on the varsity team as a freshman. Knight had 107 kills, 75 total blocks and 17 digs in 81 sets played during 2017.
The freshman middle blocker is now at VCU and is off to a fast start with 21 kills in 13 sets played through the first six matches.
Knight said her sophomore year of high school is one of her favorite memories. She played with team captain Draper to lift the Gators to a state championship title.
“It was a fun journey,” Knight said. “Especially for me, my first year on varsity, I was playing with a lot of older people. When I was a sophomore, there were a lot of older people who had strong leadership like [Draper].”
Rogers said Knight was recognized not just for her athleticism, but also because of her personality.
“It’s not always that we are recruiting just the talent,” Rogers said. “There’s a personality piece. She’s a self-motivator just like Alyna is. … It was just an easy get to be honest with you. She had all the tools that we need to succeed at VCU.”
After recruiting Draper from the same program just two years earlier, Rogers knew exactly what she would be getting in Knight.
“I love getting kids from the same kind of cloth,” Rogers said. “It was easy to recruit.”
After the VCU coaching staff contacted Knight, the thought of playing with an old teammate along with getting to know her better helped influence her decision to commit.
Being two grades apart kept the players from maintaining a close relationship. Playing together in college has helped them develop a relationship outside of practices and games.
“We’ve hung out a lot,” Draper said. “It’s just fun to get to know that side of someone that I’ve been with for so long that’s not on the volleyball court but outside.”
Draper and Knight are both regulars in the VCU rotation and are seeing a lot of success early on in the season, as the Rams are 5-1 through their first six matches.
Knight’s first game of the season on Jan. 22 was highlighted by 12 kills, the most by a VCU freshman since 2012. That record stood until fellow freshman middle blocker Lauren King logged 14 kills against Saint Louis on Feb. 5. Draper had 17 digs at the Saint Louis match.
Knight and Draper are natural leaders on and off the volleyball floor, Rogers said, describing them as “self-motivators” and “high achievers.”
“Jasmine’s that type of kid where she walks into a room and people gravitate towards her,” Rogers said. “Just like they did with Alyna.”
An earlier version of this story misspelled Jody Rogers’ last name in the second to last paragraph.