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She's Got the Tools : Orange Coast Forward Lisa Schumaker Stars on the Court--and in the Shop

January 12, 1987|STEVE KRESAL

Lisa Schumaker, a sophomore on the Orange Coast College basketball team, burns the candle at both ends and in the middle almost every day.

Weekdays, she goes to work around 9 a.m. at a machine shop in Santa Ana, where she also rebuilds Volkswagen engines on the side. She leaves work at 3:30 p.m. to get to OCC for basketball practice from 4 to 6.

She's also a full-time student, taking classes three nights a week and Saturday mornings.

Through it all, Schumaker, a 5-foot 11-inch forward, averages 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Pirates (10-10) and has signed a letter of intent with Chapman College.

"I think I work better under pressure," Schumaker, 20, said. "I can't have it too relaxed because I get too up-tight if I don't feel useful."

She has relied on herself to stay busy ever since her parents were divorced when she was 13. She decided to stay with her mother; her two sisters went to live with her father.

Two years later, Schumaker, as a sophomore at Costa Mesa High School, left home because she and her mother were not getting along. Schumaker lived with several different friends for the rest of the school year, then moved to a friend's boat in Newport Harbor that summer. She tried moving back with her mother a couple of times during that span, but each time moved out again.

"I would take the car out and she would say, 'If there are problems with the car, don't call me, you know more about it than I do,' " Schumaker said of her mother. "Little things like that get you to be independent."

That first summer on her own, Schumaker met Wendy Carney while they were working at a restaurant in Newport Beach. They became friends and eventually the Carneys took Schumaker in as a member of the family.

"There was no formal adoption," said Al Carney, Wendy's father. "But we consider her just another member of the family."

Since then, Schumaker has seen her mother only a handful of times and hasn't seen her father at all. The Carneys are her family.

At Costa Mesa High School, Schumaker was enrolled in a world history class taught by the girls' basketball coach at the time, Paul Kahn.

The first day of school, Kahn asked Schumaker, then a 5-9 freshman, if she played basketball. When she said she didn't, Kahn told her to be at practice that day.

"That's the way I approached kids sometimes," said Kahn, now in his first season as women's coach at Chapman. "Sometimes it doesn't work, but the approach worked very well with Lisa."

Schumaker took two years to develop in high school and by her junior season was starting on the varsity.

Her senior season (1984), Costa Mesa went 19-5 and won the Sea View League championship. She was voted first-team all-league.

Schumaker signed to play at UC Santa Barbara after high school, but she thought it too big and dropped out in November, 1984.

Schumaker moved back in with the Carneys. She traded in the Volkswagen she had bought as a 16-year-old and had spent years restoring herself. But in a few weeks the engine in her Karmann-Ghia blew and she took it to a shop in Placentia to be rebuilt. She didn't have the time or the tools to do it herself.

As her car was being worked on, she expressed interest in repair work to Paul Wilkes, the owner.

"He was very nice to me after I told him I was interested in cars," Schumaker said. "He told me to show up Monday morning at 8 a.m., and I did."

She worked in Wilkes' shop for about a year and became his top rebuilder of Volkswagen engines. When Carney, a machinist for 18 years, opened his own machine shop in Santa Ana last September, she went to work for him, with the stipulation that she still be allowed to rebuild engines for Wilkes out of Carney's shop.

"She's very good," Wilkes said. "She's my best engine rebuilder. She's as good at that as she is a basketball player."

Schumaker's desire to get back on the basketball court and to college grew during the summer of 1985. She decided to enroll at OCC that fall, taking evening classes and maintaining her job at Wilkes' shop.

Schumaker has discovered that automotive work may not be the best preparation for basketball.

"Sometimes, I'll get a piece of metal in my hand and I can't find it . . . well, not until someone throws me a pass. Then I know right where it is." Schumaker said.

"Also, I get a lot of cuts on my fingers that make shooting more difficult."

Cuts aside, she averaged 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds a game her first season and was All-South Coast Conference.

This season, she is the only returning starter for Coach Larry Sunderman. She has also taken on the role of team leader, as well as team mechanic. Her teammates know who to go to when their cars won't start in the parking lot after practice.

Going to evening classes has created some interesting circumstances too.

"One time I had just taken my macro (economics) test," Schumaker said. "And I was sitting there thinking, 'Thank God it's over.' And then I looked down and saw I had my uniform on and it was, 'Oh! Yeah, I have a game.' For a minute there I forgot. I just had too much on my mind."

In December in the Cypress Tournament, Schumaker had a test and missed the first half of a game against Compton. She hurried through the test, rushed to Cypress and got to the game as the second half was about to start.

She scored 22 points to lead the Pirates to a 78-65 victory.

"I don't think I would have gone to college if it weren't for basketball," Schumaker said. "It was always the thing that put the smile on my face."

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