Los Angeles Times

Thursday, December 18, 1997

UCLA Makes Him Offer He Couldn't Refuse
Volleyball: Scholarship from the Bruins was more important to Komer than the chance to continue standout basketball career.
By PAUL MCLEOD, Times Staff Writer

LOS ALAMITOS--On the surface, the news was a bit shocking. To Matt Komer, who plays center on the Los Alamitos basketball team, the decision wasn't that difficult, however.
     A 6-foot-7 senior, Komer has committed to play volleyball at UCLA next year, eschewing what many believe would be a grand opportunity at a college basketball career.
     "I like both sports, but I just couldn't pass up that volleyball scholarship," Komer said.
     Komer had a stellar junior basketball season. He was named the Sunset League's co-most valuable player, was a Times Orange County second-team selection and a Southern Section Division I second-team pick.
     His 22-point effort, including two three-pointers, in a 67-59 loss to nationally ranked Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha in the Wooden Classic Dec. 4, proved he can play with the best. And his 12-point, eight-rebound performance in a 79-68 victory over Servite at Tournament of Champions last week was the kind of effort that demonstrated the balance he brings to the team. Last season, he averaged 13.4 points and 8.7 rebounds.
     Nevertheless, Komer has had his mind set on being a Bruin since he was a little kid. When the volleyball offer was tendered, he jumped at the opportunity.
     "He's always wanted to go to UCLA," said Steve Brooks, Los Alamitos basketball and volleyball coach. "I think if they had offered him a swimming scholarship he would have gone to UCLA."
     Until a couple of years ago, volleyball was just something Komer did when it wasn't basketball season. After all, his brother Chris played volleyball at Los Alamitos and now plays for Golden West College.
     "Basketball, that was at the top of my list," Matt Komer said. "Then I started getting volleyball attention from recruiters."
     Komer joined Surf City Volleyball Club of Huntington Beach in the spring of '96 and had a good showing at last summer's Junior Olympics in Colorado. Although right-handed, Komer has the leaping ability and good arm swing to play opposite, a position often reserved for lefties.
     "He's someone who can put the ball away and is efficient at hitting," said Steve Walker, his club coach. "That's exactly what he does. He puts the ball away, is a good blocker and has a real good jump serve."
     Brooks believes the sports complement each other and wouldn't be surprised if Komer attempts to walk on to the UCLA basketball program. Brooks said he has contacted UCLA basketball coaches about Komer.
     Komer says he might do that next season. He has discussed the possibility with the Bruin volleyball coaches and has their permission to try it.
     "It would be a real positive for them," Brooks said. "He's 6-7, and with the skills he has, I don't know how many All-CIF guys they have walking around on campus."
     UCLA spokesman Rich Bertolucci said that years ago standout basketball players such as John Vallely and Keith Erickson played both sports, but that it would be highly unlikely for players to do that today because the men's volleyball season begins in early January and runs concurrently with the Pac-10 basketball season.
     Brooks credits Komer for being honest with himself when he signed to play volleyball.
     "Matt knew what he wanted," Brooks said. "Ultimately, it doesn't matter what parent, coach or any outside influence you have tells you where to go to school. He has to be an individual and he had his mind made up that he wanted to go to UCLA. When he committed [to play volleyball], obviously, he made the right decision."
     Komer isn't one to offer up his feelings on a moment's notice. Brooks, however calls Komer a quiet leader who is always thinking about how best to get the job done.
     "He's sensitive, very intelligent and a great athlete," Brooks said. "He's a great kid with a great personality. He doesn't open up all the time, but when he does, he's real easy-going and the kids all like him."
     Komer has a knack for taking advantage of his athletic abilities in both sports, Brooks said.
     "He has strength and agility and he's real explosive jumping. Those are real indicative of basketball and volleyball players and he has great hands. He's the complete player."
     Teammates point to Komer's effort against DeMatha as a tribute to his athletic ability.
     "I thought he played exceptional," guard Ryan Ellis said. "He really stepped it up. A lot of guys seemed nervous playing against that kind of team, but he didn't seem nervous."
     Komer said he enjoys the intense atmosphere of a basketball game, but has grown to love the pace of a volleyball match.
     "I like the competitive nature of basketball," he said. "It's more intense than volleyball."
     Guard Enrique Phillips believes Komer would succeed at whatever sport he chose to play in college.
     "He had two weapons to choose from and he chose volleyball," Phillips said. "I think everyone supports him in his decision. UCLA is a great school."
     With all the talk about his volleyball prowess, Komer has set lofty goals for himself this season in basketball. Above all, he wants to win a second MVP award in the Sunset League and help his team do well in the playoffs.
     "Our goal is to make it to the [division] final," he said.

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