Nathan Pace

Deciding one's future is never easy, but outside attacker Jamion Hartley made one of the biggest changes a high school student could make.

A career change.

"I wanted to improve my basketball ability to jump, so I went out for volleyball my eighth-grade year." Hartley said. "I didn't think anything of it. I just wanted to do it for basketball. All of a sudden, I just grew to love the sport. Within a year or two, I couldn't get away from it."

As a sophomore at North Chicago High School, Hartley was scoring in double figures for the basketball team. College basketball coaches were circling the 6-foot-7-inch Hartley as a prized recruit. Then Hartley shocked many by quitting basketball and making a commitment to the volleyball team.

"After my sophomore year, I completely stopped playing basketball," he said. "I wanted to work towards playing more volleyball."

Hartley's change in sport was not popular with many, including his dad. The fact that the University of Wisconsin had shown interest in recruiting Hartley for basketball made it even tougher.

"My dad really wanted for me to play basketball," Hartley said. "He just didn't know the future that volleyball had to offer me. The fact that I was pretty good at basketball and Wisconsin started approaching me my sophomore year, that made it harder for me to convince him that volleyball was the way to go."

Some of Hartley's friends even speculated that he could play basketball professionally.

"I didn't think I could do it, but other people thought I could," he said. "It was just love for the game. If you don't love it, then there's no point to doing it, and volleyball was what I loved."

Currently a redshirt freshman, Hartley has plans for volleyball after Ball State University.

"I really plan on going pro," he said. "Overseas somewhere. I haven't really looked into it. If the Olympics are there, I'm going for it."

Settling on Ball State was another story, as Hartley was recruited by all of Ball State's rivals in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.

"I wanted to be an architect," Hartley said. "This was a Division I school. I was also looking at Ohio State, but I felt that Coach Walton wanted me more."

Coach Joel Walton was glad Hartley landed in Muncie.

"Jamion is physically talented, he jump touches 11 feet 7 inches, which is the highest of any of the players on our team," Walton said. "He's a good blocker and attacker."

Hartley has had offensive outbursts this season, including a team high 17 kills against George Mason University on Jan. 29. But Walton knows he still has things to work on.

"He's got to improve the number of shots he hits as an attacker," Walton said. "He's got to do a better job digging and passing so that there is not a perceived weakness in our back row by our opponents."

This season, Hartley injured his ankle just two days before Ball State's match with the Ohio State University, the team to which Hartley almost committed. Hartley could be seen frowning on the sideline as he had to sit out the match. The Buckeyes swept the Cardinals in three games.

Hartley has several nicknames on the team with more monikers created every month.

"We call him J-Dog," senior outside attacker Eric Schulte said with a laugh. "The thing about J-Dog is usually he might be a little bit late, or he's always trying to bounce the ball when there is a solid block up. My new name for him is ‘Prodigy.' We all like that one but I don't think it has caught on as well as I would like."

Hartley couldn't stop laughing when he heard about the new alias Schulte had for him.

"He's calling me the ‘Prodigy,' because I'm technically his student," Hartley said. "I would like to play defense like him some day."

Hartley's development into a starting outside attacker was not smooth. With every intention of starting as a true freshman, Hartley had to tough out a redshirt year.

"When coach recruited me, he told me he wanted me to start," Hartley said. "So that's what I expected to do, but when I got here the game was really fast and it took me a while to catch up. Just watching my team lose last year really pushed me to work harder in practice."

IN ACTION
Ball State (8-4, 2-3 MIVA) vs. IPFW (6-6, 2-3)
7:30 p.m.
Worthen Arena