HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY QUINCY UNIVERSITY
Mike Contee had his mind set on being the team's libero this season until his coach asked him to take over the setting duties.
Count on Contee
Quincy coach Hadley Foster is confident Mike Contee can make the switch from libero to setter
His view is very different now. And not just because Mike Contee has gone from looking down from the heights of Aiea to looking across the Mississippi River while attending Quincy (Ill.) University.
By The Numbers
Mike Contee's highlights:
» 4-for-4 in kill attempts this season
» Recorded his first block assist in a 3-2 loss to Lindenhurst
» Averaging 11.38 assists
» 4 service aces
» Second on the team in digs
» Ranked second in the MIVA in digs per game (2.66), eighth in the country, last season
» Earned All-MIVA academic honors for a second straight year
Contee (Iolani '04) has gone from roaming the backcourt for the Hawks' volleyball team as one of the top liberos in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association to running the Quincy offense as the rookie starting setter.
The position change came suddenly, much as Contee's emergence as an All-State defensive specialist for Iolani in just his third year of volleyball.
The 20-year-old Contee had been used by Quincy as its third setting option, behind the setter and whoever was designated the secondary setter during plays. After the final preseason tournament of the fall, Contee said his coaches approached him about making the move.
"I was a little thrown off by it," Contee said. "I was ready to hold my spot at libero. All I've ever wanted to do was be the best libero I could be.
"It's a tough transition, going from one of the better liberos making good passes to being a 5-foot-10 setter dealing with bad passing. But the coaches said they needed me. I'm OK with it. This goes beyond what I need. This is what the team needs."
It's a one-year deal, according to Hawks coach Hadley Foster.
"I am working very hard to get a setter so he can move back to where he should be," Foster said. "He is an excellent libero. I think the best libero I've ever coached, but we were wasting all his good passes.
"Our setting position was weak and our libero position has some depth. I really tried to get the setters ready to do the job and I hated moving Mike, but in the end he gives us our best chance to win."
So far, the wins have not come. Quincy is 0-2 heading into Sunday's MIVA opener against Lewis. It has special meaning to Contee, who had originally planned to attend Lewis before the school vacated its 2003 NCAA title and coach Dave Deuser left.
He had enrolled at the Romeoville, Ill., school and had his plane ticket to Chicago. But while playing for Ku'ikahi under coach Teoni Obrey at the 2004 Junior Olympics in Phoenix, other coaches began showing interest.
"I told Coach Teoni not to worry, that I was set about college," Contee said. "But then he said that a couple of coaches had asked about me. I told him that if anyone asked, that I hadn't signed anything (athletically for Lewis).
"Quincy approached me and it sounded good. I didn't have to change my ticket. It was very ironic that Lewis is in the same division. All I had to do was drive a little further."
COURTESY QUINCY UNIVERSITY
Instead of being 30 minutes southwest of Chicago, Contee is about 280 miles southwest. He is enjoying the experience so much that he plans on staying for graduate school at Quincy and being a graduate assistant for the women's volleyball team.
"Quincy is not your UCLA or some other top school, but it's an amazing place for the all-around experience," the history major said. "It's a great place other than the (cold) weather and the (lack of) support base. In high school, you have your family, friends and parents at games. Here I am, by myself, in Quincy, Illinois."
There is no plate lunch place in town but he's heard there's one near the University of Illinois campus.
"I'm going to be making a trip there soon," said Contee, who did not come back to Hawaii during the school's short Christmas break.
Contee, a two-sport athlete at Iolani, had considered doing the same at Quincy. A midfielder for the Raiders soccer team, his thoughts of duplicating his high school career ended when he tore a muscle in his back last June.
"Playing two sports would have been tough, but it was do-able," he said. "Soccer ends right about the time we start preseason volleyball. But I didn't want to play soccer and be injured for volleyball."
There's been another change for Contee besides moving to setter. His thick head of black hair is gone, replaced by a very short cut.
"The hair is all gone," he said. "But I like it. It allows me to buy more beanies."
"He looks a lot different without the 'fro," Foster said. "Mike is a great person and huge asset to our university and team. It is a pleasure to work with him every day.
"Mike is such a smart player. There was no other player I could count on to make a move like that. I'm expecting the team to get better and Mike will be the reason we get better. He is understanding how to help his teammates to be successful.
"If we win, it will be because of him. If we lose, it will be because I haven't taught him yet."
Although 0-2, Contee has remained upbeat.
"It will turn around," he said. "We will find our strength. I see us in the top four (of the MIVA). The final four is at Ohio State. Getting there would be perfect, it would make my college career.
"It's going really well. When we're on, we're unstoppable. But the minute the passing breaks down ... I'm still dealing with the bad passes. We're working hard, getting all the kinks out. I'm pumped for Lewis. Let's rock and roll."