Destinee Hooker: Team USA Volleyball's Not-So-Secret Weapon
Vicki Michaelis, USA Volleyball
With a 43-inch vertical leap and 6 foot, 4 inch height, opposite-side hitter Destinee Hooker led the U.S. women's dominance as they went undefeated in preliminary play, dropping only two sets in five matches.
Team USA then cruised through both the quarters and semis with 3-0 victories over the Dominican Republic and Korea to set up the gold medal showdown with Brazil, set for tonight at 6:30 p.m.
"She made the difference," Brazil head coach Jose Guimaraes said after the U.S., ranked No. 1 in the world, beat his second-ranked team, 3-1, on July 30 in the prelims. "It's difficult to stop her … The things she does change the direction of the attack. She jumps so high."
Hooker, a 24-year-old from San Antonio, is an Olympic rookie. But, as veteran teammate Lindsey Berg said, "She's come into this gym like she's played in the Olympics before."
Hooker ranks second only to Kim Yeon-Koung of South Korea in scoring, with 147 points to Kim's 185. The next highest-ranking American is Foluke Akinradewo with 84 points.
"Definitely, I've been having nerves," Hooker said of her Olympic debut. "But when you have veterans on the court that kind of coach you through it, like in the locker room before you enter the court, it kind of soothes your mood a little bit."
Hooker also has her older sister, Marshevet Hooker, to call for Olympic advice. Marshevet Hooker, one of the USA's premier sprinters, placed fifth in the 200-meter at the 2008 Games.
Marshevet Hooker, with a baby due in October, is not in London.
Like her sister, Destinee Hooker played volleyball and basketball and competed in track & field in high school. Also like her sister, Destinee Hooker starred at the University of Texas in track & field. The younger Hooker sister became just the second woman to win three NCAA outdoor high jump titles.
She also played for the Texas volleyball team, leading the Longhorns to the 2009 NCAA final.
During college, Destinee Hooker competed in track in the volleyball offseason. But after the 2009 NCAA track and field championships ended, she turned her attention fulltime to volleyball.
"I think I'm better with a team-oriented sport," Destinee Hooker said. "I can contribute to them, they contribute to me, whereas high jump is more individual and I'm not really content at being that focused and just worrying about my own self."
Hooker was named to the U.S. national team in 2010. Her teammates have watched her develop a more well-rounded game over the last two years.
"She's not only a hitter now," Berg said. "She blocks. She plays defense. She's really developed her game to be a volleyball player instead of just this great athlete who jumps high and hits the ball hard." U.S. Coach Hugh McCutcheon called Hooker a "special athlete." But he noted the U.S. team is much more than one player.
"One of the strengths of our team is that we have a lot of people who are pretty special," he said. "There's a lot of depth and a lot of balance. And it's that balance that allows us to attack in different ways and defend in different ways."
Hooker also is trying to broaden the scope of the spotlight that is -- with every high-scoring performance -- shining ever more brightly on her.
Asked whether she is the U.S. women's secret weapon, she said: "I don't think I'm the secret weapon of this team. We have a few veterans that have been to the Olympic Games three or four times before. Being able to learn from them and regroup from them is key."
She was right about one thing for certain: She is no longer a secret.
There is no denying her presence or the effect she has on a game. "It's complicated for the other teams," Brazil's Guimaraes said, "not for the American team."
At the 2011 FIVB World Cup, which served as the Olympic qualifying tournament, Hooker scored an astounding 39 points against traditional volleyball powerhouse China and another 27 against Italy, in a four-set victory that clinched an Olympic berth for the USA.
"She's one of the best opposites in the world, and one of the best volleyball players in the world," said teammate Danielle Scott-Arruda. "And she has the potential to be even better."
The only thing more dazzling than the numbers Hooker has been posting in London -- she has 123 kills, 21 blocks and three aces -- are the designs on her fingernails.
She got an Olympic manicure just before heading to London, with American flags on her thumbs, British flags on her ring fingers, and gold on her pinkie fingers.
With Hooker leading the charge, all the U.S. women could soon have gold -- hanging around their necks.
2012 London Olympics - videos
- London Throws World's Biggest Party at Closing Ceremony
- London Olympics Photos: Stunning Pictures from the Closing Ceremony
- London Olympics Closing Ceremony Nets Big Ratings for NBC
- Record-Breaking Olympic Games for Team USA
- The Moments That Defined Team USA
- Team USA: The Women's Games
- Team USA Men's Basketball: Defending Champs
- USA Battles Spain for 107-100 Win to Capture Olympic Gold Medal
- Russian Sergey Kirdyapkin Wins Grueling Olympic 50km Walk Gold
- Team USA Wraps Up Impressive London 2012 Games in Track and Field
- American Keflezighi Fourth in Men's Olympic Marathon
- Russia Wins Gold; Brazil and Italy Get Silver and Bronze
- Russia Comes From Behind to Beat Brazil for Men's Volleyball Gold
- Russian Dmitriy Muserskiy Sets Scoring Record on Way to Gold Medal
- Zaytsev Hopes Bronze will Take Italy Back to Top of Men's Volleyball World
- Italy Claims Men's Volleyball Bronze Medal vs Bulgaria
- Jake Varner Wins Freestyle Wrestling Olympic Gold Medal
- Destinee Hooker Named Best Spiker at Olympic Games
- Team USA Women's Hoops: Olympic Reign
- Krzyzewski's Team USA Goes for Gold
- Team USA Adds 1 Gold, 2 Silver as Medals Count Surges to 29
- David Boudia Wins Gold in Men's 10-Meter Platform Diving
- Footballers Give Mexico First-Ever Olympic Gold; Top Brazil in Final
- USA Women Capture Historic 5th-Straight Gold Medal with Win Over France
- Harrower Leads Australia to Bronze in Women's Basketball
- USA Women Take Silver After Loss to Brazil in Volleyball Final
- Brazil Stuns USA for Women's Volleyball Gold
- Japan Claims Women's Volleyball Bronze
- 2012 Olympic Games Women's Volleyball Results
- USA Men Shoot Down Argentina 109-83; Advance to Gold Medal Game
- Jordan Burroughs Delivers Wrestling Gold
- Usain Bolt - Carl Lewis Spat Erupts
- Destinee Hooker: Team USA Volleyball's Not-So-Secret Weapon
- Women's 4x100 Meters Relay: World-Record Pace
- Usain Bolt Makes History with Golden Double
- Women Break 4x100 WR; Men Win 4x400 Silver
- Pau Gasol Leads Spain Past Russia, Into Gold Medal Game
- Women's Volleyball Medal Round Preview: USA vs Brazil; Korea vs Japan
- Women's Volleyball Preview: USA vs Brazil Gold Medal Match
- Russia And Brazil to Clash in Men's Olympic Volleyball Final
- Brazil's World-Class Volleyball Outclasses Italy -- Advance to Olympic Final
- Russia Advances to Men's Volleyball Gold Medal Match
- Team USA Prepares for Olympic Track Relays
- Pistorius Pleased as South Africa Wins Appeal to Compete in 4x400M Relay Final
- Hungary's Eva Risztov Wins Grueling 10km Open Water Race
- Photo Finish
- Britain's Nicola Adams First Woman Boxer to Clinch Gold at Olympics
- Claressa Shields Makes History, Lands Lone Boxing Gold for USA
- Probe Opened into German Rower After Boyfriend Ejected from Games
- USA Women's Soccer: Redemption
- Team USA's Double 1-2 Punch
- Usain Bolt Retains 200 Meter Crown
- Team USA Men Finish 1-2 in Decathlon and Triple Jump
- Manteo Mitchell Breaks Leg During Relay Race, Finishes for Team
- USA Women Defeat Japan to Bag Soccer Gold Medal
- USA Women Defeat Spain 8-5 for First-ever Water Polo Gold
- USA Women Rally Past Australia Advance to Gold Medal Game
- Bulgaria and Italy Have to Turn Odds in Men's Volleyball Semifinals
- Brazil and USA to Fight Once Again for Women's Volleyball Olympic Gold
- Brazil Dominates Japan: Advances to Women's Volleybal Olympic Finals
- Brazil's Women's Volleyball Coach: 'We Deserve This'
- USA Women Advance to Volleyball Final after Routing Korea in Straight Sets
- Brink and Reckermann Win Men's Beach Volleyball Gold in Thriller
- Latvian Pair Beat Dutch Duo for Men's Beach Volleyball Bronze
- Smooth Morning of Qualifying; Team USA Still Leading Decathlon
- LeBron James Triple-Double Powers USA to Semis
- Kirilenko Stars as Russia Advances to Semifinals
- Women's Final Four Top Beach Volleyball Stats at London 2012 Olympic Games
- Women's Beach Volleyball Three-Peat
- Team USA has Momentous, 7-Medal Night at the Track
- Walsh and May-Treanor Win Third Olympic Gold in Women's Beach Volleyball
- Brazil's Juliana and Larissa Fight Back to Win Bronze in Women's Beach Volleyball
- USA Men Halted by Croatia 8-2 in Water Polo Quarterfinals
- Brazil, Italy, Russia and Bulgaria Advance to Men's Volleyball Semis
- USA Olympic Men's Volleyball Team Falls to Italy in Quarterfinals
- Women's Volleyball Semifinal Preview: USA versus Korea
- USA Men 1-2 in Decathlon after Morning Session
- Shock as China's Liu Xiang Crashes out of 110m Hurdles
- Security Alert in Britain After Seven Cameroonian Athletes Disappear
- Track and Field: Four-medal Night for Team USA
- Kessy and Ross Advance to Gold Medal Beach Volleyball Match
- Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh to Play for Gold Again
- Gymnast Aly Raisman Wins Gold in Floor Exercise
- USA Women's Volleyball Team Advances to 4th Straight Olympic Semifinal
- Anthony Davis: Learning Experience
- Defense Stars for USA Women in 91-48 Rout of Canada
- Becky Hammon's Clutch Play Helps Russia Top Turkey
- Melo on Groin Hit by Argentina Player: It was 'Cheap Shot'
- Water Polo: USA Women to Play for Gold
- Jenn Suhr Wins Emotional Gold
- A Suhr Gold
- Team USA Knocks Off Argentina 126-97, Advances to Quarterfinals as Top Seed
- Olympic Beach Volleyball: Gibb and Rosenthal Finish in Fifth
- Man Nabbed For Bottle Toss on Olympic Track Just Before 100M
- Kenya's Kemboi's 'Trial By Fire' Earns Gold in 3000m Steeplechase
- Gold For Italian Campriani in Rifle; Heartbreak For USA's Emmons
- Morgan Lifts US Women's Soccer Team Past Canada, Into Finals
- American Judoka Disqualified for Marijuana Use
- Great Britain Crushes China, Nets First Olympic Basketball Win
- Lin Dan Defends Badminton Crown as China Sweeps Olympic Event
- Andy Murray a Hero After Toppling Federer in Olympic Tennis Final
- Michael Phelps Caps Career with 4x100M Medley Relay Triumph
- Jessica Ennis Brings Joy to Home Fans with Heptathlon Win
- Usain Bolt Eyes Tryout with Manchester United
- Usain Bolt Wins 2nd Consecutive Olympic 100 Gold
- Men's 100-Meters: Race for the Ages
- Sanya Richards-Ross Finally Wins Elusive 400-meter Gold
- Williams Sisters Do It Again: Win Women's Tennis Doubles Gold
- USA Women Top Italy 9-6; Advance to Water Polo Semifinals
- U.S. Women's Volleyball Team Finishes Pool Play Undefeated
- May-Treanor and Walsh Overwhelm Italy to Advance to Semi-Finals
- Kessy and Ross Make it to Olympic Beach Volleyball Semifinals
- Ben Ainslie Tops Finn Event, Becomes Most Decorated Sailor in History
- Gymnast McKayla Maroney Settles for Silver in Vault
- Andy Murray Beats Federer to Capture Olympic Gold
- Top Aussie Coach Comes Out in Embattled Ye Shiwen's Defense
- Tirunesh Dibaba Retains 10,000-Meter Gold in Grand Style
- Bolt and Blake Cruise into 100M Semis; 'Blade-Runner' Stars in 400M
- End of an Era: Michael Phelps Goes Out a Champ
- Serena Williams Achieves Golden Slam
- Gibb and Rosenthal Chart Win over Russia in Men's Beach Volleyball
- May-Treanor and Walsh Continue to Dominate in Women's Beach Volleyball
- The Social Media Games
- London 2012 Olympics Week 1 Recap
- Galen Rupp Wins Historic Silver in Men's 10,000 Meters
- Team USA Blazes Through 100-Meter Sprint Heats
- USA Men Suffer First Water Polo Setback with 11-6 Loss to Serbia
- United States Olympic Men's Volleyball Team Falls to Russia
Copyright © 2012 iHaveNet.com