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Oct. 5, 2010
Penn State Athletic Communications
Deja McClendon isn't your average freshman. Besides the fact she is currently averaging 3.53 kills per set and has been named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice this season, this 6'1" outside hitter is anything but a typical Penn State student.
A Louisville, Kentucky native, Deja chose to come to Penn State for two main reasons.
"Penn State has one of the top communications programs in the country and an impeccable volleyball program," said McClendon. "The campus is beautiful and I love the atmosphere."
The freshman outside hitter is currently enrolled in the College of Communications, and hopes to make the best of her four years here at Penn State. "I really want to get into advertising," said McClendon. "I want to be an advertising major, but I can't figure that out for awhile yet so we will see."
Deja is happy that she chose to come to school in Happy Valley. The hustle and bustle, lively atmosphere and seasonal changes really seem to make State College a perfect fit.
"I love it as a school," said McClendon. "There are so many people. It's great to meet other athletes and it's good to meet other people who are just here. I know the weather is kind of off right now but I really like the weather here too."
The student-athlete is also very impressed and eager to explore all of the things that Penn State has to offer.
"Mostly I'm excited to be at a school that has so many opportunities," said McClendon. "If you're interested in anything, you'll be able to find it here. It's such a huge school and there are so many people so I know I can always meet someone new here."
As a four-year letter winner at DuPont Manual Magnet, Deja made a name for herself at the prestigious Louisville high school. She was named Miss Kentucky Volleyball, Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year and an Under Armour All-American. Deja is a four-time AAU All-American and was even selected to the Junior Volleyball Directors Association All-Tournament team.
Coming out of the limelight of being a high school sensation, McClendon feels like she is adjusting well to the life of a college volleyball player and student-athlete.
"It's a huge jump, especially because my high school team wasn't number one," said McClendon. "We never made it past the second round of Regionals, so my high school team was never really great, but my club team was pretty good. I mean we probably could have been better but we had the fire you know, we really liked to compete so I think that's what really got me started into the whole college thing."
Still, the hard-hitting freshman has definitely noticed the differences between high school and college volleyball.
"It's a lot more competitive and just faster - it's a faster game," said McClendon. "I don't know if it's a harder transition than I thought it would be, it's definitely a lot more wear and tear on your body though - a lot more of a mental job. But still, it's all fun and games you know."
With the help of head coach Russ Rose and a team stacked full of All-Americans and National Champions, McClendon can't help but feel at ease.
"I definitely am becoming more comfortable but I just think it's because I've been playing longer with the girls around me," said McClendon. "As far as my self-confidence goes, it's not always the highest. I always tend to feel like if I mess something up than I can get so much better at something else. I'm just going to continue to work hard. You can never go wrong if you continue to work hard."
Deja is a player that opponents are beginning to learn to be afraid of. Her strong kills from the outside threaten the opposing team match after match, and she is becoming more and more prominent on the court. McClendon posted a season high of 18 kills in one match against Florida and continues to dominate match after match.
"As soon as you have confidence you feel like you can do anything," said McClendon. "You feel like you can step up your game, you can call for the ball, you can take that big swing, and that definitely helps me. But at the same time you know you can't always look at just the good stats, you need to see where you need to get better."
As the freshman looks to make her game better and better, Penn State can only sit back and enjoy the show. Deja steps out on the court ready and determined to win every match. Her pride and dedication to the 2010 Nittany Lions will certainly help to keep this powerhouse squad one of the top teams in the nation.