Hankoff’s excellence national in scope | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Hankoff’s excellence national in scope

Michael Traum

Adrian Hankoff is a blue chip athlete in the sport of volleyball.

Not since Jerod Haase donned the blue and gold of South Tahoe High has a Viking showed so much promise as a potential superstar. And while Hankoff, a junior, only played one sport, she excelled to the point that no one in Northern Nevada – or much of the country for that matter – could touch her game.

“Since I’ve been around volleyball players at South Tahoe, Adrian is the best I’ve ever seen,” said her Viking coach Alan Lambert.

The “best” is probably an understatement. While others have approached her in ability, no one has ever put the complete package together like Hankoff. She’s got the attitude, perfect grades, natural talent, work ethic and intangibles that are truly rare among prep athletes. She was undoubtedly the outstanding female athlete at South Tahoe this year.

For her incomparable domination, dedication, determination, and above- all humble nature, Adrian Hankoff is the 1998 Tahoe Tribune Female Athlete of the Year at South Tahoe High School.

“People come up and tell me that I’m the best (age-group) hitter they’ve ever seen. And there was a coach that used to motivate his players by telling them I was the best player in the gym,” said Hankoff, who’s 5-11 and 150. “I don’t see myself like that at all. There’s so much room for improvement. I just like to see who my competition is and knowing what I have to do.”

Hankoff stood tall above the competition in the high school arena. A team leader in nearly every category, she led the Vikings to the state tournament and was named Northern Nevada Most Valuable Player.

“Whenever we really needed to get a point or sideout, we’d try and get the ball to Adrian to put it away. People tried to contain her to a certain extent, but they couldn’t. And she had the backup of other great players around her,” Lambert said. “Her reputation was huge in our league. I’ve talked to other coaches and she’s highly regarded.”

But Hankoff’s proliferation didn’t stop at the high school level. Like many college-aspiring athletes, she chose to forgo other prep sports during her junior year to participate with a club volleyball team in Placerville.

And the accolades just kept coming.

“She’s the best athlete I’ve worked with in 15 years of coaching. I don’t know if there will ever be one like her,” said Gold Trail club coach Sharon Hardy. “The reason she stands above the rest is because she works harder than anybody else. It’s unbelievably true. You just don’t see kids like her these days.”

The hard work and success came at a price. With inclement wintertime weather, Hankoff’s trips with her parents to Placerville often resembled Jack London adventures more than leisurely excursions to practice. She missed many school functions, including dances and other sporting events, in pursuit of a college ride.

“If I’m not playing volleyball or doing school work, I’m home sleeping.

If you don’t play club, you won’t get a scholarship. During the high school season, the college coaches have their own seasons. They can’t come out and see you play. That’s the time they recruit and where you get your experience,” Hankoff said. “This year, I had to do well in volleyball and get good grades. I had to perform and I did it. It won’t be as intense next year – not as much pressure to do well.”

Hankoff also missed playing other high school sports, something she enjoyed in prior years. While she wants to play basketball and run track during her senior year, Hankoff understands the sacrifice last season had a purpose.

“I’m working for a scholarship. The only way I’ll be able to go to school, besides grades, is volleyball,” she said. “You can be like Jerod Haase and be a great athlete who plays only one sport. I don’t think I’ve let anyone down. It would’ve been worse trying to play two sports (club volleyball and basketball). It wouldn’t have been fair to everyone who went to every practice if I played and couldn’t go to every practice.”

Through her efforts on the Gold Trail squad, Hankoff was recognized as one of the top players in California and invited to a junior national team tryout in Colorado. While she was not one of the handful of players picked out of the country’s top 40 or 50 who made the team, Hankoff chalks it up to experience. And it hasn’t deterred colleges from pursuing her hot and heavy.

She began receiving letters of interest a couple of years back and now can’t even keep track of how many come in. The list reads like a who’s-who of higher learning. She jokes that she can now tell if the letter is personal or a form letter without even opening it.

But it hasn’t kept her from working hard and staying on track for her goal.

“Whatever college gets Adrian gets the whole package and she’ll set the work ethic for the whole team. She should be playing at the highest level possible in volleyball. And whatever she wants, she’ll get because she works for it. It’s going to be awesome to watch her grow as a college player. She’s one of a kind,” Hardy said.

“On my best days I know I can play well. It’s just going to take a lot of work,” Hankoff said. “My goal is to make the Olympic team and play professional beach volleyball. It’s really the greatest thing ever. I want to put volleyball on the map for Tahoe.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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