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Blocked out

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There is an old saying that claims once is a fluke, twice is a pattern and three times is a trend. If that saying is true, then what is a fourth time? A sure thing? A fact?

For the fourth time in a decade, Brent Aldridge has stepped on a new campus as an assistant coach specializing in defense, and four times his new team’s blocking numbers have skyrocketed.

In a way, it has become a fact of college volleyball. If a team isn’t blocking well or playing good defense, call Brent Aldridge, and he’ll make it better.

With two games left in the season, ASU currently ranks 12th in the nation with 2.78 blocks per set. In 2007, the year before Aldridge started at ASU, the team recorded 2.3 blocks per set.

That 2.3 mark would tie them for 68th this year, so essentially Aldridge has brought the blocking numbers up 55 places in the national rankings in two seasons.

Finding an opposing player’s tendencies on film is key for Aldridge.

“Everyone has tendencies and I think if you watch enough film, kids are going to give away their tendencies,” Aldridge said. “We just get on people’s tendencies and there are some outliers that happen – a kid may hit one or two balls down the line – but we want to stay on what her highest percentage shot is.”

After playing basketball for Iowa Lakes Community College and club volleyball, Aldridge began his coaching career at St. Mary’s College in Kansas in 1999, where he built the program from scratch, and, more importantly, met a young Kansas State assistant couch named Jason Watson while working at the school’s volleyball camps.

After his head coaching stint at St. Mary’s, Aldridge went to NAU as a defensive coordinator where he improved the Lumberjacks’ blocks per game average from 2.38 to 2.70.

The 2.70 mark was NAU’s highest mark in 10 years.

From there he went to New Mexico as an assistant, where in 2002 the Lobos set the school’s single-season block-assist record under his coaching.

While Aldridge was an assistant at New Mexico, Watson was an assistant at fellow Mountain West Conference school BYU.

After the 2004 season, Watson was named the head coach at BYU, and he immediately called Aldridge.

“I think that relationship goes all the way back to Kansas,” said Watson, currently the head coach at ASU. “You learn a lot about someone when you’re sweating in a gym in the middle of Kansas in the summer.”

Aldridge followed Watson to Tempe and has the Sun Devils among the national leaders in blocks per set. To Watson said, Aldridge’s success is not just from teaching technique but also from developing relationships.

“I think one of the things [that makes Aldridge good] is the amount of time he spends with those middles,” Watson said. “He spends an enormous amount of time with them and creates a wonderful relationship with them.

“He does it in the gym, he does it by watching film with them, and I think those are kind of really fundamentally important things and he does them well. I think the athletes respond to what it is he has to say, so it’s not surprising that defensively wherever he’s gone he’s made the program better.”

The same result occurring repeatedly makes it factual. So here’s the fact: Aldridge is one of the top defensive coaches in the nation, and the Sun Devils are happy to have him.

Reach the reporter at kyle.glaser@asu.edu.


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