Last season, sophomore middle blocker Daenan Gyimah was just part of the rotation; now he has emerged as one of top offensive players in the nation, leading all NCAA players in hitting percentage.
Gyimah played a larger role this season, hitting for .533. He was named to the All-MPSF First team, joining three other UCLA squad members. Coach John Speraw said he has improved in multiple facets of his game.
“He has improved offensively and certainly his connection with junior setter Micah Ma’a has improved over the course of the season,” Speraw said. “We know we can go to him in big moments. His block is probably the area of his game he has most improved. I think his serve continues to get better and has significant upside.”
VolleyMob.com listed Gyimah in their 2018 AVCA Player of the Year candidate watchlist, describing him as one of the best middles in the country offensively.
Last season, Gyimah played in 19 matches, started 59 sets, and was named to the All-MPSF Freshman team. He led the team in hitting percentage last year with .494, with 142 kills.
This season he logged his career highs in kills and points scored in a four-game match against then No. 7 Pepperdine (15-8, 8-4 MPSF), with 17 kills and 20.5 points.
Gyimah’s playing time has almost doubled this season, playing in 103 sets and starting all 29 games. He is second in kills behind senior opposite Christian Hessenauer, with 230 kills, as well as second behind Ma’a in service aces, with 38.
Junior outside hitter Dylan Missry attributed much of the Bruins’ offensive strength to Gyimah.
“He’s a beast, he’s pretty unreal when the play lines up and (Ma’a) can get him a good ball in there,” Missry said. “I think he’s pretty much half of our offense.”
Standing at 6 feet 8 inches, Gyimah continues to work on his arsenal of serves – working on new techniques to fool the opposition. His serves range from drop shots in front of the opposition’s back row to serves reaching close to 70 mph.
After the Bruin’s performance against BYU in the final game of the season, Gyimah commented on how he approaches his serving.
“We didn’t even care about service errors because we knew we were just going to side out if we missed,” Gyimah said. “So we were just ripping from the line all night and they were having trouble passing it.”
Defensively, Gyimah has emerged as a leader of the Bruins’ blocking strength. He leads the team with 124 blocks, almost 40 more than second-place Hessenauer – ranking fourth in the nation with 1.2 blocks per set.
Both Gyimah and Speraw said Gyimah’s passing connection with Ma’a in the middle of the floor has helped the Bruins offensively.
“The way that we were passing and (Ma’a) was setting, it made it so easy,” Gyimah said after UCLA’s win over BYU. “I really didn’t do anything.”
Now in the postseason, the Bruins will need Gyimah to continue his regular season form if they are to make a push towards the NCAA Tournament.