Scott Recknor is the Rat and the vagabond of UC Irvine's volleyball team.
He has come to be known as Rat, short for Rattler, because of the unending ribbing he gives his teammates.
"He'll rip just about anything and not let up," says Bill Ashen, the team's coach. "You can't come back at him. If you do, he'll put you in the bag . . . Everybody kind of knows when he starts to just sit and take it."
Recknor is the vagabond because of where he has been ("Better to ask where he hasn't been," Ashen says.)
Irvine's volleyball team is the final stop of a five-year, four-school, three-sport athletic career for Recknor. His ability as a blocker and server is helping the Anteaters to a season that some people are calling a breakthrough year.
Recknor, a 6-foot-6 senior, left Palos Verdes High School in 1985 as a quarterback good enough to take a recruiting trip to Washington, where he surveyed the weight room and thought better of continuing that sport. He went to USC as a recruited walk-on pitcher, but quit baseball after undergoing shoulder surgery on his right arm.
He then went to L.A. Harbor College, where he practiced with the basketball team for a year but did not play. The next year, he hooked up with Mt. San Antonio College, eager to play basketball, but he became disenchanted when the team didn't play the running style he had expected.
He turned to beach volleyball. The players who at first snubbed him later embraced him.
"One guy who always tried to keep me off the court asked me to play on his team in a six-man tournament," Recknor said. "To me, that was the ultimate hypocrisy, telling a kid to go away and then asking him to play on his team."
While playing on the beach, he met Brian Kehe, a former Irvine player who urged him to meet Ashen. Recknor joined the Anteaters in the middle of last season, and he has been keeping the Anteaters' van rides lively ever since.
"He broke the starting lineup in about two weeks," Ashen said. "He pretty much surprised me and everybody else."
This season, his final year of eligibility, Recknor is rated as the Anteaters' top blocker. At one point, he was ranked ninth in the nation in blocking, but a temporary move to outside blocker reduced his opportunities for a time.
Recknor leads the team in aces, with 20. As a pitcher, he made his mark with a fastball, but in volleyball, he serves a floater, specializing in placement.
The Anteaters, meanwhile, are specializing in improvement. They had a 7-25 record last season, and won only one match in the Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn.
With Recknor, junior Steve Florentine (the former Anteater basketball player), junior David Pettker, sophomore James Felton, senior Mike Minier and junior James Davis, Irvine has the core of a team that is 8-11 and has upset of Cal State Long Beach and Cal State Northridge.
"You start doing well, and it just gets easier to do well," Recknor said.
Ashen, 35, gets only perfunctory argument when he says he was the best player on the floor when he came to Irvine in 1986 to coach the school's club team.
With victories over Long Beach and Northridge, both ranked in the top 10, Irvine might have earned the right to expect respect.
"This is a breakthrough year," said Bob Newcomb, WIVA commissioner and also an Irvine professor who coached the team in the early 1970s before the sport was discontinued at the school for a time. "It's not going to be a breakthrough year; it already is."
To Ashen, Irvine used to be "kind of like little brother tagging around."
But the Anteaters now consider themselves a threat--and are considered so by others. "We used to think we were successful if we didn't get shut out in any games and the other team didn't take the starters out," Ashen said.
David Hollaway, a 6-2 guard formerly on the San Jose State basketball team, has made an oral commitment to attend Irvine, said his father, Chuck Hollaway. David Hollaway was a freshman on the 1988 Spartan team that staged a walkout against coach Bill Berry, who eventually was fired. Hollaway played at West L.A. College last season, and also considered Nebraska and New Mexico. The spring signing period begins April 11.
Trevor Kronemann, Irvine's No. 1 singles player and the 17th-ranked tennis player in the country, missed a match against UCLA last week because of a hamstring injury. There was concern that the injury might be a stress fracture, but a bone scan Wednesday proved negative. Anteater Notes