COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 20, 2016) – A veteran and a rookie stood out for the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team in 2016.

The veteran, Roderick Green (West Monroe, La.), has been named the USA Volleyball Male Sitting Player of the Year while the rookie, Josh Smith (Mesquite, Texas), has been named the team’s Most Improved Player.

At middle blocker, Green, 37, was the Men’s Sitting Team’s leading scorer at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He finished with 31 points on 22 kills, eight blocks and one ace in four matches. Green started all 14 sets the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team played in Rio. His best performance came in a five-set loss to Germany where he scored 17 points on 11 kills, five blocks and one ace.

The U.S. Men’s National Team had not competed at the Paralympics since 2004. Green was one of only three players on the team who had been to the Paralympic Games before. Green competed in track and field in 2000 and 2004 and won one silver and two bronze medals (Men’s Sitting Team Captain Eric Duda (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Chris Seilkop (Victoria, Texas) also had Paralympic experience).

“Going into Rio, he did a great job of keeping the level of focus we were looking for the entire time,” said Men’s Sitting Team Head Coach Greg Walker. “He was monitoring his diet and keeping his teammates accountable for their actions.”

Green also played a key role for the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team at the Intercontinental Cup in China earlier in the year. He finished with 46 points on 32 kills, 10 blocks and four aces in seven matches.

“Guys turned to him as a dominant force at the net and a really great competitor,” Walker said. “He was a leader to his teammates and he showed the team what they needed to do versus telling them.”

While Green has been with the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team since 2005, Josh Smith, 29, joined in 2015 after Walker spotted him at the 2014 Marine Corps Trials. Smith, whose only previous volleyball experience was an occasional sand-court game, joined the resident team at the University of Central Oklahoma in 2015.

“It definitely helped to be a resident,” Smith said. “I don’t think I would have improved nearly as fast without that.

“I feel like I got more consistent in my play,” Smith said. “I am better able to read what was going to happen and where the play was going to go.”

Smith, who is listed as an opposite, played primarily as a substitute in Rio, finishing with 10 points. He can also set, which helped in practice and will be used more and more in matches as Smith gains experience.

Walker is excited about Smith’s potential on a team that struggled in Rio, going 0-4, and finished the season 0-10.

“I am excited to see what he can do,” Walker said. “Rio was a great opportunity for someone like him to find that fire, saying we want to be back here and we want to contend.”

“I think (the Paralympic experience) woke everybody up,” Smith said. “We do have a good team that can compete with all of them… If we can take what we learned from Rio and carry it into practices and camps, hopefully other teams won’t recognize us.”