Brian Thornton always thought that by age 26, he'd be immersed in the real world, making a name and a career for himself that had nothing to do with squeezing off sets.
Instead, he finds himself starting for the U.S. national men's volleyball team in the World League, which comes to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Team USA will play Puerto Rico on both nights.
Friday will, USA Coach Alan Knipe said, mark the eighth straight World League start for Thornton, who twice earned second-team All-American honors and helped lead UC Irvine to the program's first NCAA championship as a senior in 2007.
Thornton's run as a starter, created by a series of injuries at the position, has included a pair of wins over Brazil, the No. 1-ranked team in the world.
But while his proficiency on the court is no surprise to those who have followed Thornton's career, his presence in a USA jersey is a bit of a surprise, even to him.