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Olympics 2012: Destinee Hooker Not Playing Like an Olympic Rookie

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No volleyball player can ask for a better Olympic debut than what Destinee Hooker has enjoyed in London. Hooker has dismantled opposing teams with her scoring ability and made the Team USA offense virtually unstoppable in its quest for a gold medal.

Hooker has played a pivotal role in helping the United States reach the gold-medal match for the second consecutive Olympics. No. 1-ranked Team USA looks to finish what it started at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after defeating South Korea 25-20, 25-22, 25-22 to reach the women's volleyball final. Once again, Brazil is the only team left standing in the way of the Americans claiming gold. The defending Olympic champions are back in the final after defeating Japan in the semifinals.

If Hooker remains true to her dominant form, there is no reason to think Team USA can't avenge that loss to the Brazilians four years ago and finally seal the deal.

Hooker has emerged as the team's leading scorer in London. She came into the semifinals with 123 points and offered up plenty of firepower against the Koreans. Hooker scored 24 points and came through at crucial times. One of those crucial moments came when Team USA trailed in the second set. Hooker ran off four straight points to pull the Americans into a 20-20 tie.

Hooker first made a name for herself at the University of Texas. She excelled in both volleyball and track and field. In the outdoor high jump, Hooker was a three-time NCAA champion. As a senior in 2009, she became an NCAA champion in both the indoor and outdoor high jump. It is no stretch to say Hooker could have easily chosen to pursue her Olympic dreams as a high jumper instead of a volleyball player.

Taking the volleyball route has worked out perfectly for both Hooker and Team USA. Hooker has used her high jumping prowess to her advantage plenty of times. Few players can match the 43-inch vertical leap the outside hitter brings to the court. Even fewer can come up with an effective way to contain her explosive scoring abilities.

If Team USA makes history with a final match victory over Brazil, Hooker is guaranteed to have a hand in the outcome. U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon would not want it any other way. Hooker has become integral to her team's success. A special athlete like her does not come along every day.

Hooker may have started out with aspirations of track stardom. Now she is set to cap her first Olympic appearance as one of Team USA's biggest volleyball stars ever.

John Coon has covered multiple Olympic sports, including volleyball, as a reporter in Salt Lake City. He has also been a lifelong fan of volleyball and attends matches whenever he gets the chance.

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