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Family Ties

Pepperdine's Wong Gets Expert Advice From His Brother

May 04, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Big brother is watching Scott Wong.

The two-time All-American volleyball player at Pepperdine knows he can get advice from coaches and teammates.

Then there's the advice he gets from his brother, Kevin, a beach volleyball pro and former second-team All-American at UCLA.

It's not unusual for Wong to receive what he calls "positive criticism" from his sibling.

"He always gives me feedback after games," Wong said, chuckling. "You can bet on that."

Brotherly love might not be the sole reason for Wong's success at Pepperdine (22-5), which plays Ohio State (24-3) in an NCAA semifinal today at Fort Wayne, Ind.

But Wong, a 6-foot-5 junior, has encountered few problems in his volleyball career.

One of the top defensive players in the nation, he is a fearless player in the back row and leads the Waves with 231 digs.

Add that to his offensive ability--537 kills and a team-high 54 aces--and it becomes obvious why Wong is one of the top outside hitters around.

Wong was recruited heavily out of Punahou High in Honolulu, where he helped the team win three state championships.

UCLA, USC and Pepperdine came knocking, with the Bruins' pitch holding substantial power.

Kevin, after all, played on two NCAA championship teams. But Scott chose to carve his own path at Pepperdine.

"I didn't really feel like I'd be in his shadows or anything," Scott said. "But this fit in better with my personality. I just weighed everything and made my own decision."

Wong isn't afraid to make a stand if he feels his teammates are getting spiked unfairly.

He made strong remarks after the Waves were snubbed last week by coaches in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

Not one Pepperdine player was selected first team All-MPSF.

"That doesn't really matter," said Wong, selected a first-team All-American a few days before the release of the All-MPSF team. He was a second-team MPSF selection.

"Teams that get all-conference have one or two players that get a lot of kills. We distribute the ball a lot. And we play as a team. We could have the [most valuable player] on our team and not win the championship."

He was correct.

USC setter Donald Suxho was MPSF and NCAA most valuable player, but the Trojans did not reach the NCAA Final Four, directly as a result of their loss in the MPSF semifinals to Pepperdine.

Wong's comments underlined the team-first attitude promoted by interim Coach Jeff Stork.

A three-time member of the U.S. Olympic team, Stork knows the value of a player like Wong.

"For Pepperdine volleyball, he's the rock," Stork said. "He's the hub we rotate around."

A match against the Bruins still fires up Wong, regardless of Pepperdine's 2-6 record against the Bruins in his three years.

Wong might get a fourth match against the Bruins, who are 2-1 this season against Pepperdine.

UCLA (27-5), which has won 17 NCAA titles, plays Penn State (20-13) in the other semifinal today.

If the Bruins and Waves do their on-court homework, they meet in the championship Saturday.

The tougher question is who Kevin would root for.

"I think he's pretty much for the family," Wong said. "I like to think blood is thicker than alumni status."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NCAA Volleyball Final Four

* Today: UCLA (27-5) vs. Penn State (20-13), 3:30 p.m. PDT; Pepperdine (22-5) vs. Ohio State (24-3), 6 p.m. (Semifinals delayed on ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. and midnight).

* Saturday: Championship, 11 a.m. PDT, ESPN2.

* Site: Fort Wayne, Ind.

MORE COVERAGE ON PAGE 7

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