BRISTOL, Tenn. – The men's volleyball season starts on Friday, and four King University players have been named to watch lists from Off the Block. The Tornado quartet of Jeff Sprayberry, Nick Drooker, Jon Wheaton and Jimmy Nuckolls all garnered recognition leading up to the season.
Sprayberry was one of 27 named to the Karch Kiraly Award watch list, which honors outside attackers. Earlier in December, Sprayberry was selected honorable mention Preseason All-America honors from Off the Block. The junior from Oak Forest, Ill., was selected Conference Carolinas Offensive Player of the Year and first team all-conference in 2017. He led the league with 369 kills, averaging 3.48 kills per set. His attack percentage of .259 also ranked 10th in the conference and he has had 13 matches where he has hit better than .300 this season. Nationally, Sprayberry ranked 16th in kills per set, 52nd in attack percentage and 20th in points per set.
Drooker was named one of 16 setters named to the Lloy Ball Award watch list. He garnered second team All-Conference Carolinas a season ago after ranking fifth in NCAA Division I with an average of 0.59 aces per set. The Richmond, Va., native averaged 9.95 assists per set, ranking him 12th in the country. He also averaged 0.61 blocks and 1.83 digs per set. Drooker broke his own school record with 1,035 assists last season. He is the only Tornado to eclipse 1,000 assists in a season, accomplishing the feat each of the last two years.
In the middle, Wheaton was one of 22 selected for the 2018 Ryan Millar Award watch list, which recognizes middle attackers. The Lockport, Ill., native earned second team All-Conference Carolinas honors last season after ranking 21st in the country with an average of 0.98 blocks per set. He led Conference Carolinas with 86 block assists and 101 total blocks. Wheaton was also prolific on offense, hitting .423 with 184 kills on the season.
Anchoring the defense for the Tornado has been Nuckolls who was won of 17 liberos selected for the Erik Shoji Award watch list. A season ago the Kingsport, Tenn., native earned third team All-Conference Carolinas honors. Nuckolls ranked sixth in Conference Carolinas with 219 total digs and eighth with an average of 2.15 dis per set. He reached double figures in digs nine times and set a career-high with 16 digs against Barton College on April 1.
The Tornado open the season on Friday at fourth-ranked UCLA. First serve is scheduled for 11:30 p.m. (ET). King then faces UC San Diego on Saturday and McKendree University on Sunday. All matches will take place at UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif.