Northern Valley's Tharen Cox realizes dream to play men's volleyball in college

By Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News
Northern Valley's Tharen Cox has signed with Morningside College to play men's volleyball. In this photo from his signing, he is accompanied by family members Mike Sander and Rachelle Sander (his mother) and Chris Cox (his father) and Jodi Cox.

Tharen Cox, the starting center on this season’s Almena-Northern Valley High School basketball team, and who qualified for the state track and field meet as an underclassman, signed a college scholarship last fall … in volleyball.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association does not even have boys volleyball as a sport, but that did not prevent the 6-foot-3 Cox from realizing his dream.

“I really like the team aspect of it,” Cox said. “In basketball, you might have one great player. In volleyball, you can’t do it by yourself. I really like that aspect.”

Cox said track — where he runs the hurdles and in relays — and volleyball are his favorite sports. When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled spring sports last season, Cox turned to volleyball.

“When track got canceled I really focused on my volleyball skills during quarantine,” Cox said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to play college volleyball.”

Cox was looking for a school not that far from home, and when he learned Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, had a first-year coach who was a former graduate assistant at University of Nebraska-Kearney, he decided to take a campus visit. His older sister, Zoe, who had been a starter on a state title-winning Husky team, had gone to volleyball camps at UNK, so Cox felt a familiarity.

Theison Anderson, who like Cox did not play volleyball in high school, saw some potential in Cox and asked him to put together a skill tape. After viewing the tape, Anderson offered Cox a scholarship at Morningside.

“I was all about giving him a chance to play,” Anderson said. “I’m excited for him. He’s got pretty good height. When he sent me his video, there definitely was some foundation there.

“I saw a good kid with a passion for the sport, where he didn’t really have the opportunity to play,” he added. “When he sent me the skill video, what I saw really sealed the deal for me.”

Both Cox and Anderson view his best position as an outside hitter, but Cox said he would play wherever he was needed. Just putting on a uniform next spring will be the culmination of a dream that started his freshman year in high school.

Cox would ride to school with his sister, who had volleyball practice before school started.

“I got kind of bored just sitting around, so I went into the gym to watch them practice,” Cox said. “Coach (Kirsten) Baird helped fine-tune some of my skills.”

Fast forward to last fall, and Cox learning he earned a scholarship.

“I was jumping for joy in the living room,” Cox said. “To finally attain this goal was absolutely amazing. There were a lot of doubts when I first got into volleyball, from other people. Starting my volleyball journey, I got a lot of questions. I’m just used to it now.

“I want to inspire future Kansas kids who want to play volleyball, to go after it.”