Freshman UK volleyball ace had big year

Published 3:01 pm Friday, January 5, 2024

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Kentucky freshman Brooklyn DeLeye had an amazing first season for coach Craig Skinner and clearly established herself not only as one of the best freshmen in the Southeastern Conference but as one of the nation’s rising stars.

She led Kentucky in both points and kills. Wofford coach Lynze Roos called her a “special player” after DeLeye had a game-high 13 kills in her first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Her first season did not surprise her father, John, except for how long it took her to emerge as a big-time player.

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“I was more surprised at how mediocre she played at the beginning of the year. I had never seen her play that bad before,” John DeLeye said. “She has played five sports at the highest level and I had never seen her rattled.

“I think some of it may have been coming in and out (the lineup) early. She had never done that before but she pulled it through when she needed to.”

Brooklyn DeLeye started playing soccer at age 4 and then added softball before picking up golf.

“She’s actually pretty darn good at golf even though she didn’t start until sixth grade,” John, a former collegiate golfer, said. “In junior golf she was tearing it up just playing in the summer and then she started playing basketball.”

She has an older sister who plays volleyball at Drake and volleyball became her sport of choice even though she also continued to excel at basketball. She was a McDonald’s All-American nominee her senior season.

“She excelled at basketball at the highest level. She never rests. She is always ready for the next thing and whatever it is, you see her giving it her all,” John DeLeye said.

The 6-2 outside hitter helped her team win a state high school basketball title — she was named the MaxPreps Player of the Year — and she was also on a state runner-up soccer team.

“In basketball, she flew all over the country playing at the highest level. Her volleyball coach played at KU (Kansas) and was fundamentally-driven,” John DeLeye said. “We lived in Topeka about an hour west of Kansas City. All the big clubs in Kansas City were blowing up her phone wanting her on their team but she was playing so many sports that she could not go. If not for her grandparents we could not have gotten her around Topeka to all the different sports she had.”

Her father remembers at age 7 when she was on a rec league volleyball team and he thought about having her play up two or three years on a club team because she was already six or seven inches taller than classmates. Instead, she went with a coach who stressed fundamentals and that helped make her the effective passer she was last season at UK.

DeLeye handled most of her recruiting process and kept a notebook on her top eight potential college choices. She went to camps at Nebraska and Kansas but going to Kentucky’s camp after the Cats won the national title put UK No. 1 on her list.

“All she said after visiting Kentucky was, ‘This is probably for me.’ She didn’t get the same vibe when she went to Nebraska. She liked the team spirit at Kentucky,” Delete’s father said.  “(Coach) Craig (Skinner) is a class act. He’s fabulous.”