When Long Beach Poly senior and West Point signee Allanah Cutler was younger, she got the nickname “Biggie,” a pun on the rapper “Biggie Smalls.” She was the second youngest and second smallest of her parents’ five children, but also the most mature.
“I was the smallest but also the biggest,” she said.
She’s been coming up “big” for the Jackrabbits this season, and last week helped power them to a huge Moore League win over rival Lakewood, putting up 27 kills, nine digs, five blocks, and two aces in the five-set win.
“I love my team, there’s things we have that most people don’t,” she said. “We have girls with a type of intensity and drive that you can’t teach. You can’t teach someone how to play hard, you can’t teach someone how to not quit.”
Cutler grew up playing soccer but ended up trying volleyball early in her high school career. She said she wasn’t a fan of the atmosphere of club soccer, although she was an academy-level player.
“I was the only black girl on my team and I was reminded of that every single practice and every game,” she said. “It wasn’t a good experience for me.”
Her father, Kevin Cutler, was a standout basketball player at Long Beach State at the same time as the 49ers star volleyball player was Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer. Now the owner and operator of Mizuno, one of SoCal’s biggest volleyball clubs, McKienzie-Fuerbringer told Cutler to bring his daughters to a try out and give volleyball a shot.
“I fell in love with it, it came so naturally to me compared to soccer,” said Cutler.
Jackrabbits fans and coaches can be happy she made the switch.
“She’s always been a super hard worker, she’s really been in a groove the last few weeks,” said Poly volleyball coach Leland McGrath.
For longtime Long Beach sports fans, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cutler is excelling. Her father played alongside Bryon Russell and Lucious Harris in college and has been an NBA referee for eight years–at 6-foot-8, he’s the tallest NBA ref in history according to the New York Times.
Because of her father’s career, Cutler grew up with a mature perspective on sports along with plenty of stories to tell, including the time Kobe Bryant came up to her to tell her that her father was a good guy. Long Beach State legend Glenn McDonald, set to have his jersey retired this season, is Cutler’s godfather.
Her father and McDonald and the rest of her support staff was useful in the recruiting process, as Cutler weighed offers from different colleges with varying levels of interest.
“The first thing my dad and godfather said, they all said the same thing: when you’re looking for a college, pick one that wants you as much as you want them,” said Cutler. “West Point is an amazing school, they stayed in touch with me for a year.
Of course, before she’s off to college Cutler has big plans for this year, as she’s hoping to help lead Poly to a CIF title. Cheering for them every step of the way? “Pop’s Corner,” a group of Poly dads who stand at the end of the Poly bench and cheer passionately for their daughters. When Cutler’s father isn’t on the road, he’s easy to spot as one of the loudest dads in the gym.
“You don’t always see dads who are outwardly emotional about their daughters playing sports, I love it,” said Cutler. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything–last year people had a lot to say to us about it, this year everyone says it’s inspirational and they want to start one for their own teams.”
McGrath agreed with his senior co-captain.
“None of them profess to be volleyball gurus, they just want to cheer for their daughters and they actually cheer for both teams,” he said. “They’re great–their daughters are legit athletes, and it’s really cool to see them support them like that.”
If Cutler and her teammates continue to play the way they have been, there’ll be plenty to celebrate the rest of this season.