Clayton Fontano was a basketball player and golfer when he first stepped foot on the Mojave campus as a 6-foot-5-inch freshman three years ago.
Or at least he thought so.
“He told me he was a golfer,” Mojave boys volleyball coach Erik Davis said. “And I said, ‘No you’re not. You’re a volleyball player. Let me teach you.’ ”
Davis, entering his third year as Mojave coach, hasn’t stopped using this “recruiting” tactic since taking over at the school. His unique way of finding blue-chip kids in his own hallways has turned the Rattlers into one of the top programs in Southern Nevada.
Mojave, which won last year’s Division I-A state championship and is coming off back-to-back state tournament appearances, is expected to be just as competitive this season.
“I recruit,” Davis said. “I don’t recruit players from other schools. We have some phenomenal athletes and individuals right here on our campus. And I spend a great deal of time throughout the entire year looking for guys I can see being volleyball players. I go to all the games. Basketball, football. I’m looking for quality individual guys that bring all the elements that you are looking for. You’ve got to find the right kind of person to recruit into your program.”
Mojave wasn’t exactly a fixture in the playoffs before Davis began recruiting. The Rattlers missed the postseason from 2005 to 2012, but recently found success under Davis, who embraces the multi-sport athlete. He said all 14 varsity players were found somewhere at the school.
Two of the team’s top players — Fontano and senior Jordan Glenn — had no volleyball experience before joining the team. Both were first-team all league last season.
Fontano, now a 6-7 junior, remembers his first interaction with Davis.
“He said, ‘I can get you a ring,’ ” Fontano said. “And I said, ‘OK, I’ll come to tryouts.’ ”
The declaration proved prophetic last year as the Rattlers went 20-4 and swept Clark to win the school’s first volleyball state championship.
Jordan Glenn, a 6-4 basketball standout, had a similar introduction to his coach.
“He saw me in (physical education) and was like, ‘You should come out and play volleyball,’ ” Glenn said. “And I was like, ‘I might play.’ I didn’t know how I felt about the sport then. … But he’s a confident coach and it just rubs off on the players. It brought everything together.”
Glenn led the team with 191 kills and 82 blocks last season.
Mojave, which returns four of six starters from a year ago, opens the season Friday in the 16-team Las Vegas Invitational at Coronado and Shadow Ridge. The Rattlers and Sierra Vista are the only I-A schools in the field, which features top local competition and a couple of California schools.
“We have the tools to win the whole thing,” Davis said. “We can beat any team we come against. We certainly have to develop and learn like every other program, but we have a lot of experience coming back. …
“My goal is to try to peak at the end of the year and win a (state) championship. I think we are most certainly the favorite to win it in our (Sunset) division. And for our school, we really need that.”
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.