The No. 7 BYU men’s volleyball team will likely be paying close attention when its basketball counterpart takes the court Thursday in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The two programs have held a unique connection over the years.

When ninth-year head volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead was playing volleyball at BYU, the two teams got together for dunk contests.

“He’s very confident, too. You see when he comes on, he’s really great (and) seems to be really, really good with his role and I think that’s a big deal.”

—  BYU volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead on Jaxson Robinson

“We’ve kind of had some fun competition at times. It’s always fun when we do that,” Olmstead said. “There’s a bunch of phenomenal athletes here at BYU and like every athletic department or program, there’re kids that have played multiple sports throughout their lives.”

Though the competitions between the basketball and volleyball teams have waned in recent years, parallels between the two sports remain, making it common for volleyball players’ athletic careers to include stints on the other court. What are some of the most transferable skills from basketball to volleyball?

“Playing defense, being able to shuffle with good tempo,” Olmstead said. “Positioning, body wise, defensive positioning, all that stuff. … We want to be able to keep our hips kind of open to the play in volleyball and then be able to keep things in front of us.

“(A) lot of times when we’re talking to the guys about shuffling and keeping their hips kind of square to the game, we’ll go, ‘Hey, let’s play one-on-one in basketball.’ And I’ll bring the guys out and play one-on-one.”

Olmstead, unsurprisingly, keeps close tabs on the BYU basketball team and feels that out of all the Cougars’ hoopsters, senior guard Jaxson Robinson could make the best volleyball player.

“I like his athleticism but he’s got really good length,” he said. “I think he would probably just be a really good outside hitter.”

Olmstead particularly likes a special mental quality he’s noticed that the Ada, Oklahoma, native possesses.

“He would manage the ball; manage the moments; kind of like what he does right now for that team,” Olmstead said of what Robinson could bring to a volleyball court. “(He) takes the opportunities when they’re there, but he’s also not overdoing it for those moments and those opportunities.

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“He’s very confident, too. You see when he comes on, he’s really great (and) seems to be really, really good with his role and I think that’s a big deal.”

Olmstead also points out that there are special athletes on his team that could potentially be playing basketball right now, had that been their focus instead of volleyball.

“We’ve got guys that likely could have gone and played low-level college basketball,” he said. “They’re probably not going to go high level (but) you just never know because they haven’t put the time into it. … A lot of them were really, really good but then that decision has to be made where they’ve got to specialize a little more.”

Out of all of the Cougars’ volleyball players, perhaps junior middle blocker Teon Taylor had the greatest potential to shine on the basketball court — playing high school ball under former BYU standout forward Noah Hartsock.

“Teon was really good,” Olmstead said when asked which of his players is best on the hardwood. “He played … at a really high level. … So I’d say Teon for sure (is) the best basketball player.”

Despite being focused on volleyball, the Cougars find ways to get their fix of basketball, even using it to help them prepare for their sport.

“If we’re on the road and there’s some basketballs around, we’ll go play a round of lightning to warm up,” Olmstead said. “The guys always enjoy doing that and they get to dunk and do fun things.”

Even with the connections between the two sports, each sport has important differences that require particular talents to truly excel.

“Volleyball’s pretty interesting. … It’s a really skill type of sport,” Olmstead said. “(A) lot of times it’s hard … to get acclimated to … volleyball.”

BYU volleyball has faced some of its own challenges over the last few years, missing two consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in over a decade. Perhaps Olmstead and the Cougars could use some of the magic that got the school’s basketball team back into March Madness.

The volleyball team’s quest to return to their sport’s postseason continues this Friday and Saturday in matches at No. 8 Pepperdine. BYU has won three of its last four matches in Malibu against the Waves.

BYU volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead meets with the media. The BYU coach recently address the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which tips off in earnest on Thursday. | Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo