The Dinos men's volleyball team will add some extra depth in their outside hitting department this season--about 6' 5" worth of depth, to be exact.
Twenty-three year-old Denis Zhukov from Almaty, Kazakhstan recently arrived in Calgary to join the Dinos after a six-month courtship with head coach Greg Ryan.
"He emailed me, he sent me a tape and I sent him a tape back to show him what he was getting into," explained Ryan of the lengthy process' beginnings.
"On the videotape it was pretty apparent that he is a heck of a player."
And so the journey began. After visa applications getting lost en route to Moscow, delayed TOEFEL results, dozens of emails, and long flights, Zhukov was ready to play.
"I don't know if there's many kids in any country that would do all the stuff he did to get here."
Zhukov, who has played volleyball for more than 13 years, trained and played with the junior national as well as the national teams in Kazakhstan. His main motivation for choosing to venture halfway across the world was the opportunity to combine post-secondary education with a spot on a renowned volleyball squad.
"It's impossible to do in Kazakhstan or Russia," Zhukov explained. "There are no university teams, just professional."
So far the university and the city of Calgary have impressed Zhukov.
"[The U of C] is a good university, and it's a good team."
He, in return, has made a big impression on the coaching staff.
"He's 23. He knows how to play," said Ryan simply. "When he comes to practice, he plays at the same level every day and that's very difficult He's the fittest player on the team, he's the most flexible and probably the strongest."
In addition to physical presence, Zhukov will add personal presence as he brings a lifetime of unique experiences and perspectives to the team.
"He will make this team a better team. He will teach these Canadian kids a ton of things they don't know about, because he has a different perspective," said Ryan.
Zhukov and the rest of the men's team will play almost 40 games this season, including 22 league matches and various tournaments such as the Dino Cup and Spikefest.
Between games, practices and training, Zhukov will take four classes in a pre-management program and try to find time for skiing. He also would like to squeeze in a visit home or a trip for his parents to Calgary.
In the mean time you can see his physical prowess in action during mens dino games. For a complete schedule, check out their web site <<www.kin.ucalgary.ca/athletics/dino/volleym>> or watch the Gauntlet for upcoming games.