Downey Huynh and Braden Neumann go from SoCal teammates to UJ
The two were club and junior college teammates before reuniting on the Jimmies.
The junior college Orange Coast College in Southern California has produced three recent Jimmies men’s volleyball players including current teammates, Downey Huynh and Braden Neumann. The program also produced Clark Steele, who graduated in 2021.
Neumann and Huynh are not the only Jimmies to come from southern California, as the team boasts seven others from the sunshine state, which continues to solidify the area as a hotbed for recruiting.
The three players were all coached by Travis Turner at OCC and in their club volleyball team, Balboa Bay. The fact that Turner runs two successful programs is what Jimmies head coach Travers Cox credits with bringing in Huynh and Neumann and allowing them to contribute to the team like they have.
“He runs that junior college program and he runs Balboa Bay which is one of the top 18s program, 16s, 15s, 17s, 14s, one of the top junior club programs,” Cox said. “That same guy runs that junior college and runs one of the top junior programs in California. So, if you’re getting players from his programs, you’re usually getting really good, solid athletes from that program.”
Neumann came into the program in the team’s inaugural 2019-20 season, alongside Steele, which came about after he spoke to then head coach Riley Salmon.
“There was a showcase tournament that let me know what Jamestown was, at the time Riley Salmon was our coach,” Neumann said. “So, I talked to Riley at the time and I thought it would be a good fit, and came out here with some other teammates from Orange Coast.”
While Neumann came straight from the Pirates program to the Jimmies, Huynh said that he spent time as a regular student at the University of California, Irvine. During the pandemic, Huynh said that he started to miss the team atmosphere and reached out to Neumann and Steele about the possibility of joining the Jimmies.
“When COVID hit, I realized that I really missed playing,” Huynh said. “I missed the camaraderie with a team, and working with a band of brothers toward a goal. I really enjoyed that at OCC so much and I’ve been doing it for so long. So, when I was a student at my old university, I wanted to jump back into it. I made some calls and I knew Braden was here and Braden helped a lot in that decision.”
Huynh and Neumann have been friends since they were teenagers, which Huynh said helps their current relationship both on and off the floor.
“We started off as rivals from different high schools, we played at the same club, at Ohana, when we were 16. I think being with him for so long, we know what to expect of each other,” Huynh said. “We both understood where we came from and we have this higher standard for both of us. We came up from the same area, the same volleyball background, so knowing that of Braden and having Braden know that of me, it really helps in practices and games and discussions of games and how they went because we just know each other so well and the standards that we have set up are the higher.”
Over his two years in the program, Cox said that he has seen Neumann grow into a silent leader for his teammates. Cox said that Huynh’s off the court exploits help bring a considerable amount to his team on the floor.
“Downey brings a ton, he not only brings experience, he’s also a good student,” Cox said. “He’s a math major, he’s looking to start a junior boys program here in North Dakota, here in Jamestown. He’s got aspirations, he’s going to go on to be a teacher, so that tells you everything you need to know. He’s kind of like that assistant coach on the floor, he helps out tremendously.”
Both Neumann and Huynh noted the differences between the junior college level and the NAIA level but noted different things with Huynh speaking about the size and strength of the athletes taking a step up.
“I think the biggest difference when it comes down to it, when it comes to nationals, the teams that are making the nationals are definitely at a higher level,” Neumann said. “At Orange Coast our league was pretty decent, I would say GPAC and juco are pretty even but once we get to the national scene that’s when you get to the next level.”