When Devyn Cross committed to Arizona volleyball as a junior in high school, she did so as an unheard-of prospect from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.
Or, as she describes it, “the middle of nowhere in the Mojave Desert.”
“It was the easiest recruitment process that I think people have heard of,” Cross said. “I had nobody else recruiting me. I went to a small military school (Desert High School) and pretty much nobody goes D1.
“My coach was good friends with Dave (Rubio) and one day he was like ‘I think you could play in college’ and I was just like ‘cool’. Dave came to our next game and two weeks later I had a visit and committed to Arizona.”
Four years on from that decision, Cross is making coaches around the country wonder how they overlooked her.
After leading the Wildcats in blocks per set in 2018, the senior middle blocker was named as an All-American Honorable Mention, and now enters her final season in Tucson firmly established as one of the team’s most important figures.
When Cross graduates in May, she will have been a four-year starter, something she never expected when she first arrived.
“I didn’t have any expectations actually,” she said. “I just thought it was cool somebody wanted me to come play for them.”
Rubio, who is entering his 28th season at the helm, said the unearthing of a “hidden diamond” like Cross is exactly the type of recruiting his program needs to be successful.
“If she had been playing in Southern California from the time she was a freshman, the chances are unlikely that she would have come here,” he said. “Every school in the conference would have recruited her. Nobody knew about her.
“That’s kind of how our recruiting goes,” he continued. “That’s not just us, I think a lot of the sports at Arizona are like that; trying to find those diamonds that after a couple of years at the program can become five-star level athletes.”
Rubio added that Cross’ development is unlike anything he’s ever seen in his long coaching career.
“From the time that she first came in, and she was a starter as a freshman the year we went to the round of 16, to where she is right now, the growth is substantial,” he said. “She’s become an elite level middle blocker and has the potential to be the best we’ve ever had here. You don’t get to work with an athlete like that very often.”
Despite all of the praise from her head coach, Cross believes that she can get to an even higher level in her senior season.
“Honorable mention is cool,” she said with a smile, “but I actually want to be an All-American. When I was a kid I always told myself if I was going to do a sport I wanted to be All-American.”
To get to that level, Rubio says it’s pretty clear what she needs to do—not only for her own benefit but the team’s as well.
“She’s a world-class athlete but she does got some things to clean up and refine,” he said. “Arm swing needs to be a little bit faster, timing on the quick-set need to be a little more consistent. But there’s a lot of team’s out there who would like to have a Devyn Cross.”
Even if that wasn’t always the case, it certainly is now.