Q&A: Toby Ezeonu

The Nittany Lions’ 6-7 middle blocker draws inspiration from his family.

Toby Ezeonu in Nittany Lions volleyball uniform by Cardoni

Q: When did you pick up the sport of volleyball?

EZEONU: I picked it up freshman year of high school. I started playing because my family all played volleyballmy cousins, my brothers, and my sister. I just kind of followed their path. And then I felt passionate about it.


Q: Did any of your family members play in college?

EZEONU: My cousin, Nnenna Ibe, played for Princeton’s women’s volleyball team.


Q: What other sports did you play growing up?

EZEONU: I played basketball and track.


Q: Were you always one of the taller kids? Did you have a big growth spurt at any point?

EZEONU: Nah, just always tall compared to my colleagues. I’ve always been tall.


Q: What about Penn State from a volleyball standpoint and a school standpoint made you want to come here?

EZEONU: First, Penn State is a pretty prestigious school, and they have a good kinesiology program, which is what I wanted to major in. Also they have a good volleyball program, and it’s very close to home. It was an easy choice for me. Very convenient in many aspects.


Q: How have you improved as a player here?

EZEONU: I’ve played more volleyball and gotten used to the pace. The pace from high school and club volleyball is completely different from the pace of college volleyball. Every Division I volleyball player has that transition that they go through. I had to adapt to it my first and second year and now I feel comfortable playing at this level.


Q: What’s going through your head when you’re setting up for a block?

EZEONU: Nothing really goes through my head (laughing). It’s just technique. Line up right, block the ball. It’s different depending on the player I’m going up against—if it’s a lefty or righty, what type of shots, what tendencies do they have, what’s their approach? I feel like all of that comes into consideration. It’s instinct; I don’t really think about it.


Q: Is it easier to anticipate what opponents are going to do in the fourth or fifth set than it is in the first?

EZEONU: Players go more toward their tendencies that they rely on toward the end of the game. They try to rely on what they’re best at. I don’t like the first set because they are more lenient and can try whatever they want because they can rely on those two to four sets left in the game. You don’t know. For me, personally, I feel more comfortable in the first set than I do in the fourth or fifth set, depending on whether we’re winning or losing.


Q: Which do you enjoy more—a big kill or a big block?

EZEONU: I’d say a big block. I feel like every volleyball player would say a big block. It feels good. I don’t know why it feels good, but it feels great just stuffing a ball down. Everybody gets a big kill every once in a while, but a big block is rare.


Q: Why did you want to major in kinesiology?

EZEONU: I feel like kinesiology was the ideal path for me because I find it interesting. After I get my bachelor’s at Penn State, I want to go to grad school. I don’t know what type of school yet, but I want to do something with it eventually.


Q: Who is someone you admire?

EZEONU: I would say my mom and my dad. I feel like I picked up my work ethic from them. I don’t think I’d be in the position I am right now if I wasn’t the person I am, and the person I am is because of them. I look up to them and I want to be just like them. I want to raise my kids just like they raised me.


Q: Favorite place to eat in town?

EZEONU: I like Roots Natural Kitchen.


Q: Favorite sport to watch other than volleyball?

EZEONU: Probably basketball.


Q: Last book you read?

EZEONU: Textbooks, or? (laughs) Right now, I’m reading … I forget the title, but it’s about different ways to better yourself in conversations and ways to network. I haven’t picked up that book in a while.


Q: Musical artist you’re listening to right now?

EZEONU: I’ve been listening to Drake, here and there.


Q: What are some of your other interests outside of what we haven’t discussed?

EZEONU: I like to play video games—Call of Duty, Minecraft, Fortnite, Forza. Sometimes I like to write; I have a little diary at home that I just sum up the week, basically, and what I can do better.