AVCA National co-Player of the Year and NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Matt Anderson will forgo his senior eligibility at Penn State and play next season in the Korean League.
Anderson, a 6-foot-10 outside hitter from West Seneca, N.Y., who provided the brunt of the offense for the NCAA national champion men's volleyball team, signed a two-year deal with Korea's Hyundai Capital Skywalkers.
"It's always been my goal to turn pro, and when the opportunity came, I took it," Anderson said.
Anderson won a share of the player of the year award with Long Beach State's Paul Lotman, making him the first Nittany Lion since Ivan Contreras in 1997 to achieve the honor. In his junior season, Anderson hit .397 - the highest for any outside hitter in the country.
During his three-year career at Penn State, Anderson recorded 1,212 kills, good for 13th on the school's all-time list. He also ranked eighth in service aces, compiling 82 throughout his award-laden career.
"Anyone who is 6-10 and as mobile, as athletic and has that personality that he has, anyone can see he's a special kid," Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said.
Teams began contacting Anderson about playing professionally when he traveled to Japan to train with the Japanese National Team in late May. He continued to receive e-mails during his stint with the United States National Team, which won the gold medal at the Pan American Cup in Manitoba, Canada, this June.
Anderson said teams from Japan, Puerto Rico and Europe offered him deals, but after visiting Seoul with his dad, he chose the Korean lifestyle.
"We were treated like royalty there, like rock stars," Anderson said. "They had great accommodations, they set out a kitchen and cooked for us."
Anderson said he'd try to finish his degree in kinesiology in a few semesters by taking online courses.
While talented athletes passing up the chance to play through their college eligibility is common in major sports like football and basketball, this opportunity is much less so in volleyball. Pavlik said he'd never witnessed such an event since he took over the program 14 years ago.
"It means he's pretty darn amazing," said Luke Murray, the Lions' setter and captain who graduated this past season. "It's so rare; as a junior, nobody's getting looks from international programs."
In discussing his plans to go pro, Anderson talked with his teammates at Penn State, alumni such as Nate Meerstein and Matt Proper who have gone on to play in Europe, his family and several coaches. It took a solid two or three weeks, Anderson said, to finally decide to leave the college game behind.
"I told him, 'The one thing I don't want you to do, whether it's five years, 10 years or 20 years from now, is to regret this decision,' " Pavlik said. "Senior year only comes once in your life, and as long as he doesn't regret missing out, I think he's made the best choice for him."