Even minutes after Stanford fell in straight sets to Hawaii for the second time in three nights, Cardinal opposite Jaylen Jasper was filled with appreciation, not disappointment.
His perspective? It was a pretty cool trip for someone with his family history. Jasper is the son of two former Hawaii athletes, but had never visited the islands until arriving for this weekend’s games with his Cardinal teammates. He was born in California and calls Annapolis, Md., home.
“It’s a beautiful state,” Jasper said. “It’s really nice to get to play in front of such relaxed, chill people that just love volleyball. It’s amazing.”
His father is Ivin Jasper, the Hawaii quarterback from 1991 to 1993 who is now Navy’s offensive coordinator. His mother is Donna Joe (Gondringer) Jasper, a Wahine basketball center who played in 1990-91 and 1991-92.
Jasper excelled in volleyball his first two years of high school, then transferred to a school which didn’t offer the sport. He captained the basketball team at Broadneck High his junior and senior years. Despite that, he merited an invitation to the USA Volleyball U-19 national team.
This weekend, his parents watched him from the stands of the Stan Sheriff Center, an arena that wasn’t completed until after they wrapped up their college careers (it opened in 1994).
The high-flying Jasper, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, had a team-high 13 kills on .250 hitting in Sunday’s rematch, up from seven on .130 on Friday.
“He’s huge. He’s a huge part of our offense,” Cardinal coach John Kosty said Friday. “We keep trying to find new ways to get him rolling and keep him going. He’s new to the game. He’s going to make some errors. We understand that. But he’s a big, physical guy and he comes through for us.”
He brought the wood on some of his swings, but it was still far from enough against unbeaten UH. Jasper glowed about the Rainbow Warriors’ defense, especially that of libero Gage Worsley.
“At first, when we first stepped in here for serve and pass, it was like, ‘whoa,’ ” Jasper said. “Maples (Pavilion) is big, but for some reason this just feels huge. And then when the game started (Friday night), and this whole place was packed, it was a huge shock to us. I’ve never played here before — there are some upperclassmen on my team who’ve been here before. And just, it was a little overwhelming in the first set two days ago. It really showed we had to adjust to it.”
Asked about what that was like to have his parents in house to watch him in a place so tied in to their history, Jasper paused, then offered an elaborate response.
“You know, growing up I’ve never had the closest relationship with my parents,” he said. “I was always the middle child, I was always super distant. That’s just who I am. It didn’t change the fact that I love them no matter what. But for some reason just getting to come to where they went to school, it was such a huge experience and it meant so much to me. Like I wanted to spend every minute of every day possible with them, which wasn’t possible because, you know, I’m here for volleyball. But getting to see where they first met, getting to see their apartment, hearing their old college friends tell me stories about my parents that remind me of stuff that happens at Stanford, it was crazy. But this was an experience like no other. I’m so happy I got to come here.”
If you want to read more about Jasper and his family, check out this long piece from Stanford athletics told from a first-person perspective during his freshman season. It’s a good read.