How did you start playing water polo and when did you know it was your sport?
I started playing water polo when I was nine; I think it was fourth grade. I was previously super interested in travel sports: basketball and baseball. But my parents wanted me to take a season off of the regular sports and try something new. So I traded off regular sports with water polo until sixth grade, when I realized I had a real talent for water polo and that it was something that could take me pretty far and something I could play in college
What’s the most memorable moment of your Wolverine career so far?
Without a doubt it has to be winning our second straight championship last year. There’s nothing more special than going undefeated for the first time in school history with a senior class last year that was really close with each other. Our coach was a player at Harvard-Westlake and he always preached to us how hard and special it was to get to those championship games. Very few people get to say that they’re a national champion in their sport, so I guess it was a personal goal to experience that, and when we actually won it was incredible. There are no words to describe the feeling.
How do you prepare before every game? Any rituals? What’s on the playlist?
Before games I try to be as relaxed as possible. If I feel a little unfocused, I like to listen to music to kind of block out everything. I usually just talk to my teammates and not do anything abnormal that I wouldn’t do at practice. If I did listen to music, which I do sometimes, it would probably be loud rap. Some Kanye, some Drake, just a mixture of rap.
What do you think about when you’re playing?
I try to always think about what’s going to happen next. It’s really easy to get caught up in the moment and think about where the ball is at that moment. But in order to be successful I try to think about where my teammates are going to pass the ball, or where the other team is going to pass the ball next so I can set myself up to be in a position to steal the ball or score. I always try to be one step ahead of what my opponent is thinking.
What’s it been like transitioning from being a freshman on the team to becoming the captain and more of a leader on the floor?
When I was a freshman, we had a very young team; we didn’t have any seniors and we started two freshman and four sophomores, so I wouldn’t say it was the most classic freshman experience. But now when you’re a senior everyone looks towards you and when things aren’t going well you have to be the calming factor on a team that’s very young and has a lot of inexperienced players. I wouldn’t say it’s a lot of pressure but you have to be a much more assertive and vocal leader.
What will you try to do differently in your senior year than in years past?
This year we have an extraordinarily close team; I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team with so many best friends. While everyone is extremely close friends with each other, I think it’s hard when you have friends on the team to hold them accountable. I think it’s something that we’ve done a good job of so far, but we need to continue in practice. Even though they’re your best friends, you still need to hold them to a very high standard in the pool.
What was it like getting recruited to Stanford?
It was a lot of fun. My dad told me maybe only once or twice in your life will people really push for you to go to their school. I got offers from Stanford, USC, UCLA, and Cal. They’re obviously four really good schools and it was fun to visit all the campuses and talk to the coaches. It was something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
How do you train during the summer?
Over the summer, I trained with the US national team. We traveled to Italy for a week, Croatia for a few days, and then back to Italy for a tournament, and during the school year last year I went to Australia for a tournament and got to play in Budapest and Hungary too. I’ve been training a lot with guys who are significantly older than me; there’s a guy who’s 37 on the team. I’ve gotten to learn a lot from the best players in the US.
What has playing for the national team meant to you?
First, it’s kind of a culture shock because I’m coming from playing high school water polo, and suddenly I’m traveling the world and playing with people who are 10-15 years older than me, and that made me mature more quickly. It means the world to me to play with them. Ever since I was little, I watched the national team play and seeing how much effort and time they put in to represent our country around the world. It’s an extremely special feeling that can’t really be replicated when you go to a tournament knowing that you’re representing your country.