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Player of the year: Off-court challenges only enhance
San Clemente standout's volleyball game.

The Times All Orange County Teams

Talented Taliaferro Hangs Tough

June 14, 1996|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every once in a while, an athlete comes along who combines uncommon athletic skill with exceptional perseverance. Consider Brandon Taliaferro of San Clemente, The Times Orange County volleyball player of the year.

Because of his height and talent, Taliaferro, 6 feet 5, is a rare high school setter, one who is expected to make an impact at UCLA next season.

But the challenges he has faced off the court are even more remarkable--he has fought a lifelong battle with dyslexia and in 1990 he watched his half-sister, Brianna Metzger, die of cancer at age 2 1/2.

"It put life in perspective," he said. "Little things are nothing compared to your health and your family."

Taliaferro is one of the best setters the county has produced in recent years, but he also deftly plays any position necessary for his team to win.

In the second round of the Southern Section Division I playoffs, for instance, Taliaferro switched to hitter in the middle of the second game to try to boost the Tritons. Despite Taliaferro's valiant attempt, San Clemente lost.

Although he has never played on a Southern Section or South Coast League champion, Taliaferro has had a remarkable four-year career.

He carved out a space for San Clemente among the county's elite, leading the Tritons to the Southern Section quarterfinals in 1994. Last year, playing with USC's Gabe Gardner and Loyola Marymount's Corin Bemus, Taliaferro helped San Clemente to the section final.

"We pretty much put San Clemente volleyball back on the map," Taliaferro said.

And this season, Taliaferro earned his player of the year award by almost single-handedly keeping it there.

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