RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Having not grown since he was 6-foot-4 as a 16-year-old, Hawaii left-side hitter Jake Schkud is 2 inches shorter than starting setter Brian Beckwith, Schkud's high school teammate. CLICK FOR LARGE
He hopes to grow his game, if not his frame
UH's Schkud was a volleyball star at age 16, when he was 6-foot-4 -- but he's the same height today
Tall and talented.
It was the passport to success in volleyball. It took Jake Schkud around the world, from Canada, as captain of the USA Volleyball youth national team, to India as captain of the U.S. team in the World University Games.
There are medals and titles: California Interscholastic Federation championship with Loyola High in Los Angeles, the mythical national championship bestowed by Volleyball magazine, Junior Olympic gold with The Long Beach Club.
But college ball? It's been a disappointment.
And Schkud is the first to say so. His sin? He stopped growing at age 16. At 6-foot-4, he was an obvious choice for middle
blocker back then.
Now 21 and still 6-4, the junior on the Hawaii men's volleyball team is even shorter than his setter and good friend, 6-6 Brian Beckwith.
Schkud is hoping to make the conversion to left-side hitter, hoping to improve enough to get him a permanent spot in the Warriors lineup.
He'd really like to continue the process tonight against his former team, UC Santa Barbara, as well as help Hawaii end a four-match skid.
"We're going to see a very good Santa Barbara team who's been tearing up the league and (senior opposite Evan) Patak, who'll be bombing his 30-foot jump spike," said Schkud, who redshirted in 2004 at UCSB before transferring to Hawaii. "Our goal right now is to go game by game, starting with beating Santa Barbara."
Personally, Schkud's goal is to become a good enough passer to stay on the court. He's seen limited action, playing in four matches, and put down a career-high 10 kills in last Friday's loss at UCLA. Four of the kills came when moving over to opposite briefly from the left side, a position he also played growing up.
"It was great playing at Pauley (Pavilion) and nice to be back in my home spot (at opposite) for a bit," said Schkud, who grew up in Santa Monica not far from UCLA. "I had family and a lot of friends there. Even though we lost, it felt good to come in and get a little revenge against them."
Schkud knows he's got to keep producing if he wants to keep sharing the court with his high school and club teammate Beckwith, as well as his former roommate on the youth national team and at UH, sophomore opposite Jim Clar.
"Jake's a good player and it's nice to see him out on the court," Clar said. "He's one of those guys who will do anything it takes to help the team win. He's ready to go in and give it his all."
"I don't know the last time he played opposite, but he came in against UCLA and showed how versatile he is," said sophomore reserve setter Sean Carney, who started Game 3 against the Bruins with Schkud.
Until this week, Schkud had someone who could relate to making the transition from middle to outside. Assistant coach Jason Salmeri, who left Tuesday for a job opportunity in New Jersey, also made the conversion while playing at Hawaii (1997-98).
"I played middle in high school and all but the last year and a half in college," said Salmeri, who played two years at George Mason before transferring. "The good part is Jake was an offensive middle, has a really good arm swing. The difficult part is now he's got to pass. It's difficult, but you can make the change. Jake just needs to keep playing hard. It's just going to take a lot of dedication, a lot of work and a lot of frustration."
Schkud's got the frustration part down cold.
"I'm not going to lie, it hasn't been all peaches and cream," he said. "It's been tough ever since coming out of high school, where I pretty much won everything. Come to college and it felt like all the wind was taken out of my sails.
"Hawaii recruited me out of high school and obviously it is the better choice for me. Still, I feel my college career hasn't been what I wanted it to be."
Even if Schkud had stayed at UCSB, the plan was to move him from the middle.
"He's got a pretty good arm swing and is a good blocker," Gauchos coach Ken Preston said. "But he is too small for the middle and he would have moved to the outside."
"We're trying to find a place for him," Warrior coach Mike Wilton said. "As he showed against UCLA, he can be an effective hitter. He needs to keep working at his game."
And, Schkud said, work on his work ethic.
"I guess I've always relied on talent and ability," he said. "Sometimes I was just better and didn't have to work as hard. I know I'm not the best outside and maybe next year I won't be one of the top outsides.
"But this summer, I'm going to train harder, be more serious. I want to help my team out, carry my share of the load and be happy with myself."
He wasn't happy two weeks ago against Penn State when everyone who knew anything about the Beckwith-Schkud longtime playing relationship knew Schkud was going to get the swing with the Nittany Lions at match point (31-30) in Game 3.
"Everyone knew it was going to me," said Schkud, who was blocked to end the match. "I take full responsibility for that. It was a bad decision."
But coming to Hawaii wasn't, he said.
"You always want to put yourself in the best possible position to get better, have a good time and a good career," he said. "I chose volleyball over basketball because I thought I'd go further in volleyball. I have with the (USA) youth and junior teams. I have the rest of this year and next to do it in college."
Sometimes growth is measured by more than inches.