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Soccer Star Went From Just an Extra to Extraordinary

February 06, 1986|DAVID MORGAN

Growing up in Arcadia, David Havassy played baseball and other sports for fun.

He played soccer because his friends wanted him to: "They just needed extra players."

With a little help from his friends, Havassy's priorities have changed. Now he plays only soccer, and he does it for fun.

And he does it well.

Havassy, a 5-8, 170-pound senior at St. Francis High School in La Canada, was the only Californian named as a first-team All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Assn. at its annual banquet in St. Louis last month.

He attended the banquet with his coach, Cherif Zein, expecting to be named to a lower-division team. Five teams were picked.

A Pleasant Surprise

Then it appeared there had been a mistake.

"We started looking for his name from the bottom up on the list," Zein said. "We didn't see his name."

No mistake. Havassy and Zein just weren't looking high enough.

"I thought he had been named to one of the other teams, like third or fourth team," Zein said. "To be named to the first team is truly spectacular."

Havassy takes a more modest approach.

"I was lucky. It was a matter of being in the right place and the right time. Plus, I wouldn't have been selected if it wasn't for my coach."

Indeed, Zein did have a hand in Havassy's selection. A former voting member for the coaches organization, Zein served this year as the sole nominator for athletes from Southern California.

Former Star Missed

Havassy was one of his nine selections, but Zein did not foresee him earning first-team honors.

"I became a member of the committee last year to push hard for players from the Valley and for Anton Nistl (now at UCLA), who was on the (St. Francis) team last year," he said. "I thought Anton deserved to be an All-American, but since he didn't get it, I didn't think David would either."

To the surprise of both, Havassy earned the elusive honor. And it hasn't been the same at St. Francis since.

Example:

The phone rings in the physical education office. The caller is informed that Zein isn't in. A message is taken.

"Tell Cherif it's regarding David Havassy," the call says.

"It's always about David Havassy," the messenger replies.

Proud but Uncomfortable

Such is life with an All-American.

Havassy isn't comfortable yet with his billing, but he realizes that it comes with the honor.

"I'm not really into whatever you get with this," he said. "But I guess I have to go with it.

"I just let my actions do the talking for me."

In that manner, Havassy speaks loud and clear. In 16 games this season, he has scored 13 goals and has 13 assists, the main reason the Knights are 7-3-3 and tied for first place in the Del Rey League with a 3-0-3 record.

"He has been involved in nearly every one of our goals," Zein said. "Without him, we have no offense."

That was illustrated in a league game against Alemany recently. Havassy was benched for not hustling in practice, and St. Francis managed only a 1-1 tie.

'He Learned From It'

"If he was in there, we would have won and we'd be in first place," Zein said. "But I require everybody to put out as hard as possible, and he wasn't.

"Practices are my lectures and games are my tests. He learned from it."

And he's still learning, according to Zein.

"He's good, but he's young," Zein said. "He has to get used to players getting on him physically and vocally. If he gets it, he has to learn to dish it out.

"And to learn in anything, you've got to play with better players."

Zein should know. A native of Egypt who grew up in several North African countries, Zein played nothing but soccer as a youth.

When he was 14, his family moved to Arizona, where there was no high school soccer at the time. So Zein played in men's leagues against competition nearly twice his age.

Started Glendale Programs

Zein went on to play for three UCLA teams that advanced to the Final 4 during 1972-1974, then started soccer programs at Glendale High and Glendale College. From 1979 to 1983, his junior college teams won two state championships and four league titles.

Zein thinks Havassy will blossom in a college program.

He Abandoned Baseball

"He's played tremendous, but I wish he had a better supporting cast," Zein said. "Then you'd see what he could really do.

"He's very strong, and he has durable legs. He has a strong upper body, and can throw (the ball) into the hole area from almost anywhere on the field. It's almost like a shot on goal every time.

"And he's very good at one-on-one. If he's stuck in the corner, he can get the ball out of very tight situations and beat a player."

Havassy, who was the third baseman on St. Francis' baseball team last year only to give up the sport to concentrate on soccer, said he is looking at a number of schools, including Cal State Northridge and USF.

Zein said he expects Havassy to get a scholarship, although he admits that only now are recruiters beginning to take notice.

"He's not the player on the block that everyone knows," he said. "But David will surprise a lot of people."

He already has.

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