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Hunt Gives Herself and Her Team a Tall Order to Fill : Roosevelt High Star Shoots for City Volleyball Title


At 6 feet 2 1/2 inches, Zenobia Tyson Hunt is easy to spot in a crowd. It's been a familiar feeling for the Roosevelt High senior, who was already 6-feet-tall by eighth grade.

"I always stand out and people can spot me anywhere," Hunt said. "In the eighth grade, a lot of people thought I should play basketball or be a model."

Modeling was appealing, but lessons were too expensive. Basketball has proven a good alternative for Hunt, who has attracted scholarship interest from UCLA, Long Beach State, Idaho and Kentucky.

Hunt, known as Tyson to friends, has also started to make a name in volleyball.

She took up the sport last year at the urging of sisters Lisa and Leona Jacobs, former classmates at Hollenbeck Junior High who went on to the volleyball and basketball teams at Roosevelt. Lisa now attends Cal State Stanislaus, and Leona is at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

"They kind of recruited me," Hunt said of the Jacobs sisters. "I went to watch some of their (volleyball) games and decided to give it a try. I just wanted to see how it went. I felt like a beginner. I was scared and nervous and my timing felt really funny. I thought 'This ain't for me.' "

But at the urging of Roosevelt volleyball Coach Ken Maki, Hunt decided to stick with the sport.

She proved to be a quick study.

Hunt earned All-City Section 4-A Division honors and was named the Eastern League's most valuable player last year, averaging 10 kills and four blocks at middle blocker to help Roosevelt (18-2) to the Southeastern Conference title and reach the City final for the eighth time in 13 years.

"Zenobia is blessed with physical ability and talent, but she's never played in any organized leagues in volleyball," said Maki, who has coached the Roughriders to five City titles. "She's really become an aggressive player in two years, but there are so many fine points you have to learn through experience. I'll always wonder, 'What if I had had her since her ninth grade year?' "

This year, hopes of another City final appearance for the Roughriders will rest on Hunt, the tallest player at Roosevelt in Maki's 15 seasons, and 5-6 senior setter Minnie Alatriste, the only returners from last year's team.

The Roughriders will be strengthened by the addition of middle blocker Dawn Pellerin, a 5-8 junior transfer from Huntington Park High. But Hunt will often be flanked by a pair of 5-6 freshman outside hitters, Anabel Tovar and Rose Zuniga.

"We have a lot of ninth-graders," Hunt said. "We will be much better once we get to know each other. For all the seniors, the goal is to make it back to the City championship."

She has the same goal in basketball.

Hunt, whose father stands 6-5 and whose mother is 5-9, did not join the Roosevelt basketball team until midway through her sophomore year, but she established herself as one of the City's premier post players last season to lead Roosevelt (21-2) to the school's first City 4-A final appearance.

Hunt scored 23 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in a double-overtime loss to Crenshaw in the longest girls game in City championship history.

A Times All-Central City first-team selection, Hunt averaged 16 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the Southeastern Conference champion Roughriders.

"Volleyball and basketball go hand in hand," Maki said. "Going up for a block and a rebound are basically the same thing. When I tell them to get low on defense, it's just like playing one-on-one. I told her, 'Don't look at just one sport. Go for both.' "

Hunt, whose brother Paul Jr. was an All-City basketball player at Wilson High as a senior in 1993, said conditioning from volleyball has increased her vertical leap in basketball. Hunt, however, said she is leaning toward playing only volleyball in college.

"When I'm playing basketball I like the sport more, but overall I prefer volleyball," Hunt said. "My passing has improved, but I need to work on my blocking. At the (NCAA) Division I level, the competition looks good and it would be difficult to hang in two sports."

Roosevelt opponents are voicing similar concerns about playing against Hunt.

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