New Trier’s Brian Hammes has the ‘relentless’ attitude needed to thrive as libero

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WINNETKA — Brian Hammes grew up in the perfect training facility for future liberos. 

New Trier athletes Brian, Scott and David Hammes are triplets and when the juniors were growing up, the Hammes home could be a battleground.

“It was a competitive household,” Brian Hammes said. “Broken lamps, broken sculptures, broken bones. For a long time while we were growing up, every single basketball game we played in our driveway ended in a fight.”

Brian Hammes entered high school as a setter and a hitter, but the Trevians boys volleyball coaches quickly identified his competitive fire and knew they had to turn him into a libero.

“You want a relentless player at that position, one who’s super emotional, and never gives up,” Trevians coach Sue Ellen Haak said. “And that’s what Brian is. Along with that, he’s probably one of the top two athletes on our team.”

Brian Hammes was initially reluctant to try a new position, until he realized that opportunity was knocking.

“I had a chance to play varsity volleyball as a sophomore. I couldn’t pass it up,” Brian Hammes said. “Once I got used to playing libero, it grew on me and now I love it.”

While Scott Hammes is a member of New Trier’s football and baseball teams and David Hammes has focused on basketball and lacrosse, Brian Hammes has played volleyball.

During one of the more impressive nanoseconds in volleyball, a good libero analyzes which direction an opposing hitter or server is about to hammer a volleyball. Then, of course, he has to react physically to get to it.

Brian Hammes has a pretty good track record within that nanosecond. He has 264 digs this season through Friday’s 25-19, 25-19 win over Niles West in the New Trier Sectional semifinal. On a 3.0 scale, his serve-receive passing average is 2.5 after receiving more than 380 serves.

“It’s a position where you have to go hard for every ball,” Haak said. “You don’t see a lot of rewards. You’re not racking up kills, not always doing the flashy things, but if you’re not getting the ball up every time, no one else can do anything. 

“He has to go hard against the really big hitters. He has to be courageous.”

If “courageous” sounds like a stretch, consider the pounding that a libero’s body takes as he’s consistently diving and landing on a hard gym floor.

“Knees, hands, your stomach, your elbows, your hips — everything,” Brian Hammes said. “Your hands take a lot of it. I have bruises all over my stomach and legs, and a torn ligament in my thumb.

“But it’s all worth it. I live, sleep, and breathe volleyball. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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