Dillon Klein stands nearly 6 feet 5, with a vertical leap beyond 36 inches. He can spend 30 minutes jumping on a trampoline, looking like he's ready to join the circus acrobats. He’s the leader of the body surf club at Los Angeles Loyola, which means if he has a free morning he’s probably teaching his cousins how to surf.
“He’s one of the most athletic kids I’ve had in my 24 years of coaching,” Loyola volleyball coach Mike Boehle said. “The sky is the ceiling for him.”
Committed to USC as a junior, Klein is part of a family gene pool that can be simply described as “All-American after All-American.”
His grandfather, Bob Klein, was the tight end on USC’s 1967 national championship team before starring for the Rams in the 1970s. His father, Jimmy, was an All-American football/volleyball player at Stanford. His aunt, Kristin, was a four-time All-American in volleyball at Stanford. His uncle Patrick played volleyball at Stanford. His uncle Adam Keefe was a star at Stanford and played in the NBA. Cousin James Keefe is a basketball player at Stanford. Cousins Caitlin and Michaela played on three NCAA championship women's volleyball teams at Stanford. His sister, Keili, and another cousin, Kerry Keefe, are volleyball players at Los Angeles Marymount High.
“To be honest, it’s really fun,” Klein said of his family sports activities. “It’s great to have everyone else to compete with. Family gatherings are kind of competitive in terms of games. Last night I was at my grandparents’ house. We played this game and it got pretty intense, which in my opinion is great. I love competing with my family and having my family be at my side for academics, athletics … everything.”
Boehle has known Klein since he was 5.
“He was this polite, little boy but animated,” he said. “He couldn’t sit. I made sure Jimmy understood when he was ready, he was coming to Loyola.”
The big surprise was Klein’s decision not to play football as a freshman despite the success of his grandfather and father. He said it was “100%” related to avoiding injuries, something his father and grandfather endured. Instead, he spent his time playing beach volleyball and became convinced volleyball fit him best.
“Volleyball was never really my favorite sport until late junior high,” he said. “I really liked flag football. Then I played a lot of volleyball and was thinking, ‘I really like this.’ I love the culture. Everyone is super nice, and it’s fun.”
Klein is an outside hitter, and to see him leap, take a perfect set and send the ball crashing to the court is a bigger jolt than sipping a steaming cup of black coffee in the morning.
“It’s the best feeling ever getting a good set and hammering it down on the floor,” Klein said. “It’s awesome.”
Klein might be the best dunker at Loyola, though his basketball skills leave a lot to be desired. He could have family competition for best dunker with cousin James and uncle Adam.
Friends love being around him because of his positive attitude.
"I don't like getting mad at my teammates," he said. "I never do that. I feel positivity is the better way to go. It's not going to help beating up your teammates, 'Come on man, step it up.' It's going to help more saying, 'Let's go, we got this. This is what we do for a living.'"
The good news for Klein is when COVID-19 forced athletic competitions and practices to be suspended last March, he has so many family members into sports that he always found someone to join him for a workout. Aunt Kristin has her own outside volleyball court at home, and members of Stanford’s women’s team stopped by, enabling Klein to learn new skills.
“It was so much fun,” he said. “Learning aspects of women’s volleyball that aren’t in the men’s game was really beneficial. Women’s volleyball is much more ball control-oriented. I really feel it helped me.”
Klein finally got back to working out with his teammates this week, the first time volleyball players were allowed to begin conditioning drills on Loyola's campus under strict safety guidelines. The season has been moved to run simultaneously with girls volleyball beginning in December.
That’s going to put pressure on the Kleins, since his sister, Keili, and cousin Kerry will be playing for Marymount.
“I love watching them play,” Dillon said.
As for grandpa Bob, Dillon has been playing golf with him and getting words of wisdom. He and Bob are the lone wolves in the family picking USC over Stanford.
“He’s super excited I’m going to USC,” Dillon said.
As for the golf duels, he said, “I’m not a great golfer. I’m learning.”
Kleins know how to adapt and adjust before mastering a game, so beware.