The Coral Reef girls’ volleyball team made it to the state semifinals for the first time in the program’s history earlier this school year.
Now the boys’ volleyball team — loaded with size and cross-training basketball players — wants to do the same thing.
Leading the way is 6-5 senior middle blocker Cedric Hankerson, who has a scholarship to play basketball for Boston University.
He played volleyball as a sophomore, but had to leave the team as a junior so he could play AAU basketball.
“This year, he came to me and said: ‘Coach, I want to play volleyball,’ ” said Yasmin Ortiz, who also coached the girls’ team to state.
The other dual-sport players are 6-6 senior right-side hitter Malik Audain, 6-7 junior middle blocker Zavier Peart and 6-5 senior outside hitter Trey Holcombe.
Senior setter Anthony Caba and senior outside hitter Ozzy Lievano, who both focus only on volleyball, are the other key members of the team.
Ortiz, who won a state volleyball title as a player at Coral Springs Taravella, believes that her sport is a natural way for basketball players to improve their quickness and leaping ability.
When she took over at Coral Reef five years ago, she approached Chachi Rodriguez, who was the coach of the boys’ basketball team at the time.
She wanted basketball players for her volleyball front line and got Gerron Grandberry, who now plays basketball for the University of North Florida, and John Mompoint.
That team won the 2009 state title in boys’ basketball.
“After that, Chachi told me: ‘Here, take them all,’ ” Ortiz said.
Adam Graham, who was Rodriguez’s assistant, is now the school’s basketball coach, but the same philosophy of sharing top athletes exists.
Hankerson, whose brother Charles had signed at Alabama before transferring to Wyoming, where he will be eligible as a junior this fall, loves playing volleyball.
He said watching former Columbus star Eddie Odio play volleyball convinced him to do it, as well. Odio now plays basketball at Boston College.
“He got better athletically, and my coaches at Boston know that I will benefit greatly from playing volleyball,” Hankerson said.
“Now we just want to do what the girls did [state semifinals] — or better. We have the same group of players for the past four years, so we have extremely good chemistry.”
• Columbus’ Bernard Tefel has a partial scholarship to play men’s tennis for the University of Miami next season, according to coach Keith Green.
Tefel, a lefty from Nicaragua, has been Columbus’ No. 1 singles player since his sophomore year.
“He’s only 5-8, but it’s amazing how hard he hits for his size,” Green said of Tefel, who is 22-4 in his career.
• Ricky Reguera, Southwest’s top volleyball player, is the half-brother of former Eagles standout Jose Lanier.
Reguera is a 5-9 junior outside hitter; Lanier, 6-6, played middle blocker and went on to compete at Mount Olive (N.C.).
Southwest coach Mauricio Diaz said Reguera was one of “seven or eight” All-Americans at AAU Nationals last summer.
“He’s one of the best juniors in the state,” Diaz said. “He’s a better all-around talent [than Lanier] because he can pass, hit, jump serve.”