USC coach Bill Ferguson is not only fine if his All-American setter Micah Christenson has to leave the team during the preseason to play with the U.S. Men’s National Team, he is encouraging it.
Ferguson said in an interview with Off the Block on Tuesday that he hopes Christenson is selected to the U.S. roster for the upcoming FIVB World Grand Champions Cup because of the long-term benefits it would have for the setter and his team.
“There is nothing better than to have one of your top players put in a position where they have to compete against the best in the world,” Ferguson said. “It puts them in an environment where they have to excel at a greater level than they normally have to. And it also allows more people on our team when they are gone to fill leadership positions.”
After finishing an All-American sophomore season with USC, Christenson spent part of the summer training with the U.S. National Team and helped lead the United States to a gold medal in the NORCECA Men’s Continental Championship. He also won the Best Setter award at the international tournament in August.
With the NORCECA championship, the United States qualified for the World Grand Champions Cup on Nov. 19-24 in Japan. In addition, Christenson was one of the 20 players selected to the U.S. initial roster for the tournament by coach John Speraw.
Ferguson said Christenson’s situation is similar to former USC outside attacker Tony Ciarelli. Ciarelli in 2011 spent part of the preseason playing for the United States at the Pan Am Games and after returning to USC went on to be named the 2012 National Player of the Year.
The biggest challenge for Christenson playing with the U.S. National Team in the World Championship Cup, Ferguson said, is maintaining his academic requirements.
“He has done a very good job in communicating with his professors and making sure he has done everything legal with the NCAA to keep up with his courses,” he said. “The school has shown a tremendous ability of working with our student athletes.”
USC opened its preseason training camp last month and will begin its preseason schedule at home Saturday with the USC Fall Tournament.
The Trojans finished last season missing the MPSF Tournament for the first time since 2006, but return several starters who missed a majority of that season because of injuries.
Along with his starting lineup becoming healthy, Ferguson said he has seen significant improvement in Christenson’s play since the end of last season. The coach also said Christenson being able to spend a week during the summer with former U.S. Olympian setter Lloy Ball has improved the junior’s mental approach to setting.
“There is a higher level of difficulty in having to set different players. Matt Anderson hits a different ball than Reid Priddy hits,” Ferguson said. “It forces Micah to be very precise with what he does. By nature he works on that every day in practice. That is why he is where he is. There a lot of people with God given abilities to be special. He is special in his God given abilities, but he is also special to work on the finer details. That is what makes him so great.”