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Dual-sport standout Maggie Mendelson commits to play basketball and volleyball for Huskers
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Dual-sport standout Maggie Mendelson commits to play basketball and volleyball for Huskers

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John Cook on his "player-driven" team

LINCOLN — Maggie Mendelson started her own secret book club this fall.

The prized volleyball and basketball recruit used her own initiative to read John Cook’s book “Dream Like a Champion,” and surprised the Nebraska volleyball coach with her review of it during a Zoom call this fall during a recruiting meeting this fall.

The book provided Mendelson with insight on the Nebraska coach’s approach and how he deals with players and developing a championship program. Combined with the relationships she developed with both the Nebraska volleyball and women’s basketball coaching staffs, she officially committed to play both sports for the Huskers on Saturday.

“If he's gonna write a book I might as well read it,” Mendelson told The World-Herald. “It was super helpful in understanding how he coaches and how he treats his players and that he cares so much about them. It was super helpful to understand what's going on inside his head while he's coaching.”

Mendelson’s commitment is a huge boost for both programs. After reclassifying up a year a month ago, the 6-foot-5 middle blocker was ranked as the No. 2 2023 volleyball prospect by PrepVolleyball.com and the No. 32 overall for 2022 and sixth-best post prospect.

She becomes the second addition to the women’s basketball team joining 5-foot-8 guard Callin Hake. The volleyball team’s recruiting class of outside hitter Hayden Kubik, middle blocker Bekka Allick and setter/defensive specialist Maisie Boesiger was already ranked No. 2 without Mendelson.

Mendelson committed to the women’s basketball staff following their win over North Carolina Central Saturday afternoon during an unofficial visit. It’s her third trip to Lincoln after she attended a volleyball camp in June and made an unofficial visit with the basketball program. After she reclassified in October, she made an official visit and talked to both coaching staffs.

Her other finalists were Texas, Washington and Minnesota. Ultimately the relationships with the coaches swayed her to commit to the Huskers.

“It’s Nebraska. There is really no place like it,” she said. “I especially love the coaches and the players I've met. It was awesome to meet them and make those connections and build those relationships.”

Mendelson said she first thought about moving her graduation up a year after playing with the volleyball junior national team at the FIVB U18 world championships, which earned a bronze medal in September. She realized she was ready for the next challenge after she averaged 6.86 kills and 2.29 blocks per match for the United States.

During the tournament, she played with Allick, as well as 2023 NU commits Harper Murray and Bergen Reilly. Mendelson said she enjoyed playing with and against some of the best players her age in the world and was ready for the next challenge.

“I just think it's gonna be better for me to move on to college just a little bit early so I can play against the best girls,” she said. “I'm going to miss my high school experience. I'm gonna miss all my teammates and my friends that I have there but it’s going to be better for my game to go on to college.”

Mendelson also played for the US in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in August, earning a gold medal as she averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds per game in just under 20 minutes of playing time.

During the recruiting process, the Nebraska coaches laid out the plan for Mendelson to play both sports in college — which was a must for her to consider a school in the recruiting process. She will focus on basketball in the summer, but once volleyball season starts in August, she will join the program and remain with them until the season is over in December before switching to the hardcourt.

Mendelson should have a shot at early playing time on the volleyball court. The Huskers have three senior middle blockers. Lauren Stivrins has used up her eligibility after returning for her bonus COVID season. Kayla Caffey and Callie Schwarzenbach also are eligible to return, but will make that decision after the season. NU returns sophomore Kalynn Meyer, who has appeared in seven sets over five matches, and Rylee Gray is redshirting this year. Allick, who played outside hitter for Waverly, will move inside for NU.

Last week, Mendelson finished with 26 kills and 10 digs in Fremont’s season finale loss and finished seventh place at the Utah 6A state volleyball tournament. She has a quick turnaround with her first basketball game of the year next Tuesday.

Colby Burleson, who is the co-director for Utah Hive volleyball said he wasn’t surprised when Mendelson picked Nebraska. He’s enjoyed working with her for the last few years and he might not have the opportunity to coach a player of her caliber.

“Her size, understanding, her tenacity and competitive drive will take her far,” he said. “She just continues to get better across the board ... It’s fun to watch.”

Mendelson said she enjoys both sports, but says she is better at volleyball. Her overall goal is to play volleyball in the Olympics.

“I’m so excited for the opportunity to play here for such a good school,” Mendelson said. “Both programs have such great fan support and great coaches. It's such an amazing opportunity and I’m super excited to play with the girls and play for Nebraska.”


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