By Sean Doerre
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
If big things only come in small packages, freshman Torri Campbell is an exception to the rule. The 6-foot, 2-inch middle blocker for the Baylor volleyball team has used her freshman campaign to inject some energy, size and youth into a Bears' squad looking for its first NCAA tournament birth since 2001.
Campbell came to Baylor as the second highest-rated recruit in school history. She was ranked by Prepvolleyball.com as the 30th best high school athlete in the country and has made an immediate impact.
She currently has the second most blocks on the team with 88 (1.01 per set) - good for 10th in the Big 12. The person who leads the Bears and the Conference in blocks also happens to be Campbell's mentor, senior middle blocker Anna Breyfogle.
"Torri definitely came in as a pretty effective player," Breyfogle said. "She is just an all-around athlete. I think that anything she did, she would be good at."
Baylor coach Jim Barnes, in his sixth season in Waco, is excited by Campbell's raw athletic ability and mental toughness.
"We expected a lot out of her," Barnes said. "We expected her to come in here and contribute. I think we were a little surprised at how mentally tough she is as a freshman. She is really a tough competitor. She has handled the pressure extremely well."
Campbell has done some of her best work this year when the pressure has been its highest. In a contest against No. 9 Iowa State, Campbell recorded a career-high 18 blocks and then had 10 more in a win over Texas Tech to average 3.50 kills per set for the week prior to Nov. 1. For her efforts she received the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
Both Breyfogle and Barnes agree that Campbell's success has spawned from her ability to adjust to college life and the college game.
"It is a lot different coming from high school to college and she has really adapted and changed her game to use her abilities to her advantage and to the team's advantage," Breyfogle said.
"For most freshman it takes a little bit of an adjustment to get used to the school and the environment, being away from home, and the level of play," Barnes said. "She has adjusted extremely well. In fact on the court she wants the ball - she is not tentative like some freshman can be and that is what we really like about her."
Campbell, however, believes her ability to fit right in comes from the help of teammates such as Breyfogle.
"She is definitely a player that I watch all of the time," Campbell said. "She is very good at what she does and that is awesome to have. She is very good in telling me, 'You might want to do this a little differently,' or in just giving me little tips to help me through this freshman year."
For Barnes, Campbell is another piece in the puzzle in building a winning program in Waco and bring more highly ranked recruits to Baylor.
"That is how you build programs; every year you get better and better recruits and that is what we have been able to do," Barnes said. "Baylor is a tremendous school and it has attracted lots of athletes to come and look at us.
"As we have gotten better we have gotten better recruits and Torri is one if you get her to commit and come here and she does well more will follow. She is certainly one of those players that is helping us build this program."
Next year, the Bears will have to replace seniors Breyfogle, Taylor Barnes and Ashley Christenson, but if Campbell can be as good as Breyfogle says, the Bears will be in good hands.
"Torri is definitely going to progress and get better and better as the years go on," Breyfogle said. "There is no doubt in my mind that she will be All-American sometime in her career. She has the complete package."