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May 19, 1989 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SPORTS

A WORLD OF ELEGANCE

Hard-Working Ex-Kibbutznik
Is Big Hit In UCLA Volleyball

RICK WEINBERG

Special to The Jewish News

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FRIDAY, MAY 19, 1989

here was no chance
of Oren Scher making
the University of
California-Los Angeles men's
volleyball team. None
whatsoever.
So thought UCLA head
coach Al Scates.
"He was always dragging
himself around," Scates said,
recalling his thoughts during
UCLA's fall practice. "He was
always so tired. Real weak. I
figured he'd be on the junior
varsity team for the season."
But Scher didn't travel from
a kibbutz in Israel to play for
the Bruins' JV squad. He
was, after all, the best player
on the Israeli national
volleyball team, a team that
knocked UCLA around
Pauley Pavilion during its
1987 United States tour.
Scher not only made the
varsity team, he is a key
starter on the highly-ranked
Bruins, who won the NCAA
National Championships at
Pauley Pavilion two weeks
ago. The Bruins beat Stanford
to win their 13th national ti-
tle and fifth crown of the
decade.
To put Scher's ascent into
perspective: his name is not
mentioned in the season
preview in UCLA's media
guide and his biogrpahy also
is absent.
"Things did not go well for
me in the beginning," said
Scher in a heavy Israel ac-
cent. "It was very hard for
me."
Working three jobs would
be hard on anyone.
But "to earn money so I
could survive," Scher worked
as a night security guard,
sold frozen yogurt on
weekends and worked as a
handyman. He also took
classes in computers, history
and English while huffing
and puffing through Scates'
demanding practices, study-
ing and lifting weights — a
Scates requirement.
"Oren showed up for prac-
tice once without getting any
sleep for over a 24-hour
period," Scates said. "I sent
him home. Told him to rest
up."
"I knew I had to slow
down," Scher said. So he quit
his handyman job.
"The main thing is I need-
ed to work as much as I could
to support myself, to pay my
bills," he said. "All my free
time, I worked. I pushed
myself to do it."

Oren Scher: An omen?

Once Scher started pacing
himself, he worked back into
shape and began performing
well — well enough to beat
out returning players Carl
Henkel, Bill Suwara and
Mark Tedson for a starting
spot as swing hitter.
"The big problem was that
I came here terribly out of
shape, terribly out of pratice,"
he said. "I sprained an ankle
the year before I came, and it
delayed my progress. It took
a while for it to heal."
Now he ranks among
UCLA's leaders in kills and
digs.
"He's been a big surprise,
considering his shaky start,"
Scates said. "He had a hard
time jumping and hitting in
the beginning, but that was
because he was so tired. He
was not eating properly or
resting enough. Now he's
playing the way I
remembered him on the
Israeli team. He's been ter-
rific."
Scher turned the Israel tour
into his personal showcase. At
6-foot-3 and 193 pounds, he
can block, he can bash the

ball with authority and he
can get down and dirty and
dig. He can pass. He can
serve. He can play defense.
"The only thing he really
needs to improve in is hitting
deep sets," said Scates. "He
tends to run under the balls.
But he does everything else
well. He's got great court
sense."
Less than a year ago, Scher,
23, was working in the fields
of the kibbutz where he grew
up, in northern Israel near
Haifa. Scher's grandparents
had come to Israel from
Poland in the 1930s and settl-
k1 in the kibbutz.
Oren arose at 5 o'clock every
morning but Saturday — no
one in Israel works the Sab-
bath — to work eight hours in
the fields, planting and pick-
ing cotton, fruits and
vegetables.
At night, Scher went to
volleyball practice. His height
and powerful spike earned
him elite status in volleyball.
In no time, he became one of
Israel's best, making the na-
tional team at age 16 and
becoming a star. Scher played

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