Jermaine O’Neal played in the NBA for 18 years, most notably for the Indiana Pacers for eight, and was a six-time all star.
So why is his name being mentioned when it comes to Texas high school volleyball.
His daughter, Asjia, is becoming a well known name in the Metroplex as she enters her junior year with powerhouse Southlake Carroll.
9 Dragons on this year’s team that are committed to play Division I volleyball
O’Neal started volleyball in middle school after trying multiple sports growing up. She was on the B team in the seventh grade, and junior varsity her freshman year before jumping onto varsity midway through district play.
"I tried out for other sports, but volleyball intrigued me,” she said. “My height helped and I ended up loving it.”
She was born in Portland – her father drafted by the Blazers and played there from 1996-2000. She made her move to Indiana, Toronto and Boston before getting to start her volleyball career in Texas in the seventh grade.
"It was kind of hard making friends, but I always enjoyed meeting new people,” O’Neal said. “It was definitely more fun than difficult.”
And despite her dad’s busy schedule, he’s always been there for her.
"He’s always been there for me no matter the sport,” O’Neal said. “Once I started to take volleyball seriously, he was harder on me and I appreciate it and know it’ll help me in the long run.”
319 Kills from O’Neal last season which helped give her a team-high .419 hitting percentage
O’Neal was honorable mention all district her freshman year, and last season was named District Blocker of the Year and third team all state by the TSWA, but as coach Ryan Mitchell says, "hasn’t peaked yet."
"Asjia had a late start, started volleyball in middle school. Most kids now days begin in the second and third grade, so she’s up on her growth curve and her development," Mitchell said. "As good as she is, there’s another level that people haven’t seen yet."
Mitchell took notice on how good she could be in Carroll’s area round win over Allen last fall.
"She was one of those that would come in, get a couple of kills, and go to the bench. It was in the playoffs against Allen when I noticed Asjia had reached another level," he said. "She went from fulfilling her role to ‘give me the ball and let me dominate this match’ and you could see it happen."
In her first year with Carroll, the Dragons reached the regional semifinals, but last year got knocked out in the regional quarterfinals. She finished with 319 kills, a .419 hitting percentage and 98 blocks.
But like O’Neal’s ceiling, it might be time for the Dragons to peak this season.
Mitchell graduated four players from last year’s 43-4 team, three of which went on to play college volleyball. This season, Carroll has nine seniors, six of which are committed to play in Division I, and three more, including O’Neal, who committed to Texas on April 27.
"I always wanted to go to Texas. When I visited in April, I fell in love with the coaches and girls and you could tell, they genuinely loved being apart of Texas volleyball," O’Neal said. "I just kept thinking to myself, this is where I need to be."
Senior Haley Hallgren, who was the District MVP last season and MVP for the TGCA all star game last month is committed to play beach volleyball at USC while seniors Lisie Kit (Clemson), Rachel Meyne (Colgate), Sheridan Webb (Arkansas State), Nailah Gordon (North Carolina State) and Mellanie King (The Citadel) are also Division I bound.
"Haley is a big impact in all factors of the game. She’s so dynamic, she’s a gifted athlete," Mitchell said. "Lisie has developed her confidence and leadership to a standpoint where some play calling goes through her."
Junior Abby Carroll is committed to South Carolina and sophomore Mckenzie Nichols is committed to TCU.
"This team is experienced with a lot of young talent, a very balanced group," Mitchell said.
Added O’Neal, "the team is pretty stacked with a lot of talent, but one thing we have to remember, it doesn’t matter, we just need to work together and play as a team."
After going to the Pearland tournament the past three years, Carroll will travel to Honolulu for the Ann Kang Invitational from Aug. 11-13 along with fellow Texas schools Saginaw Boswell and Kingwood.