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Central York volleyball standout Cole Johnson says UCLA is right kind of 'different'

  • Central York boys' volleyball standout Cole Johnson has verbally committed to UCLA.
  • Johnson, a 6-foot, 7-inch outside hitter, led Central to a PIAA Class 3-A state title last season.
  • Johnson also considered Penn State, USC, Pepperdine, Loyola-Chicago and Lewis.

Some people prefer changes that are subtle.

Central York's Cole Johnson recently gave a verbal commitment to play volleyball at UCLA.

Others look to shake things up a bit more.

Central York boys’ volleyball standout Cole Johnson definitely belongs to the latter group.

One of mostly highly-recruited players in the nation, Johnson had his pick of powerhouse college programs. One of the schools vying for his services was not so far away in State College.

Being the son of a former Penn State University men’s volleyball standout (Jeff Johnson), Cole was never fully sold on following in his father’s footsteps. What he was looking for was certainly something different.

Or, to be more specific, someplace different.

Enter Los Angeles, a city that could never be confused for places such as York or even State College. From the weather, to the size of the city, to the time differences, to the beaches, southern California was the kind of different that Johnson was seeking.

It didn’t take the 6-foot, 7-inch all-state outside hitter too long to make up his mind. After taking an official visit to UCLA a few weeks ago, Johnson gave his verbal commitment to the Bruins before he boarded his plane to return home to Pennsylvania.

“I wouldn’t say that I was trying to be different than my dad, but just different in general,” said Johnson, who led Central to a PIAA Class 3-A state championship a season ago. “My whole life I always wanted to go out west to California and go to college there. Unfortunately for Penn State, it didn’t rule them out but it just put them lower on the list.”

Others under consideration: That list included six NCAA Division I schools — UCLA, USC, Penn State, Pepperdine, Loyola-Chicago and Lewis — that Johnson was considering. Originally he was going to make his five official visits to the three California schools and the two Chicago schools, as well as an unofficial visit to Penn State.

Johnson’s list changed this summer when he eliminated Pepperdine, Loyola and Lewis from consideration. That left him with three official visits to USC (early September), Penn State (early October) and UCLA (mid-October).

Those two trips to LA, which were paid for by the two institutions, only cemented Johnson’s mindset to head west come next summer.

His decision also met with his father’s approval.

“He would always say to me ‘do what you want to do,’” Johnson said of his dad. “He would just tell me that ‘it’s your decision, not mine.’”

While Johnson is completely happy with his decision, he admits that his father secretly wanted him to stay closer to home.

“I know that deep down there’s a part of him that wanted me to go to Penn State and stay at home,” Johnson said. “Because, obviously, they’re not going to be able to watch me in person too often when I’m out there playing that many games.”

Visits to Hawaii: In addition to the allure of Hollywood and everything that surrounds living in Los Angeles, there was also another big factor that played in Johnson’s decision.

And, just like LA, it had everything to do with location.

“The league that UCLA is in is called the MPSF (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation),” Johnson said. “And Hawaii is in that league, which is even better. If we play Hawaii there I’ll be flying to Hawaii and I won’t have to pay for it.”

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com.