Big Brothers Point Way to Success for 2 Prep Stars : Volleyball: Mira Costa’s Pat Ivie is following his brother Bryan to USC, where they’ll finally get a chance to play together. The Trojans can hardly wait.
Bryan and Patrick Ivie grew up on the beach, and for years dreamed of nothing more than becoming professional surfers.
But as their bodies began shooting up and outgrowing their boards, they started looking for alternate means of entertainment. After experimenting with a variety of sports, they finally found a permanent home on the volleyball court.
And what an accommodating home it has been. The Ivie brothers, born and raised in Manhattan Beach, have established themselves as two of the top players in Southern California.
Bryan, 21, is a junior at USC and a leading candidate for college’s National Player of the Year honors. He also is a member of the U.S. National Team and a good bet to make the ’92 Olympic Team.
Patrick, 17, is a senior at Mira Costa High and one of the most sought-after prep players in the country. He recently committed to USC and hopes to be in the starting lineup with his brother next year.
There are plenty of similarities between the brothers. Both are middle blockers leading their teams in kills. Both are tall. Bryan is 6-foot-7 and Patrick 6-5. And both play for winning teams. USC advanced to the NCAA Tournament this weekend in Fairfax, Va., and Mira Costa is undefeated and the No. 1-ranked prep team in the country.
The two also have plenty of differences. Bryan is a late bloomer in the sport, taking up the game during his junior year of high school. Patrick is a finely tuned prep standout, with four years of intense training. Bryan is a calm, laid-back player, while Patrick is well known for his ranting and raving.
“When Pat was younger, I think all of his screaming and yelling was a disadvantage,” Bryan said. “I think it made him lose sight of what he was doing.
“He’s learned to control it, though. I think he’s actually mellowed out a bit, while I’ve gotten a little more emotional.”
Bryan was so mellow in high school that during a summer tournament four years ago in Albuquerque, N.M., his coach pulled him out of the starting lineup for what he termed a lack of interest.
Patrick, on the other hand, was recently described by a teammate as a “scowl-faced killer.”
Emotional differences aside, the two know how to play volleyball and are effective masters of the net. Patrick has a team-high 110 kills and 68 blocks this season, and Bryan leads the Trojans with a staggering 659 kills and 111 blocks. Bryan has appropriately adopted the nickname “Poison.”
Their rise to the top, so to speak, has been achieved in different manners. Bryan started late and was forced to learn the game quickly. Patrick started early and allowed plenty of time to sharpen his skills.
In 1983, Bryan was an awkward freshman at Mira Costa looking for something to do. At 6-5, he said, he was too tall for surfing. He played defensive lineman on the freshman football team and center on the junior varsity basketball team, but didn’t feel comfortable in either sport.
“I was really going through some awkward growing periods,” Bryan said. “I was uncoordinated at almost everything I was doing.”
During the fall semester of his junior year, Bryan met Mira Costa volleyball Coach Mike Cook in a driver’s education class. Cook couldn’t help but notice Bryan’s size and encouraged him to try out for the volleyball team. Bryan took his advice and played middle blocker on the junior varsity squad that spring.
“I went out because of my size,” Bryan said. “I certainly didn’t have the skills. I was very inexperienced. But I had fun out there, and really learned to like the game.”
Bryan joined the Torrance Volleyball Club that summer and played every day, furiously trying to make up for years of missed opportunities.
By his senior season, Bryan was a starter and a mainstay for the highly regarded Mustangs. He had 115 kills and 96 blocks, leading Mira Costa to a runner-up finish to Newport Harbor in the Southern Section 4-A finals.
Since Bryan was a relative unknown heading into the season, he received little college recruiting attention. When then-USC Coach Bob Yoder stopped by a match to watch the team, he was pleasantly surprised to find Bryan.
“I was impressed with Bryan the minute I saw him,” said Yoder, who retired last season after eight years at USC and one NCAA title to his credit. “He wasn’t a great skilled player at the time, but he had great foot movement and unlimited potential. I was shocked to find out that no one was really actively recruiting him.”
Bryan signed with USC and has been a starter since his freshman season. In 1988, he was selected Freshman of the Year on the college All-American team. Last year, he led the Trojans in blocks (162) and was selected a second-team All-American. He also made the U.S. National Team, and traveled to Puerto Rico, Sweden, Russia and throughout America last summer.
This season, he asserted himself as one the country’s top college players and was again selected to the national team. He is pictured on the cover of the USC volleyball program.
“Everything that has happened to me seems like it has occurred earlier than it’s supposed to,” said Bryan, who is 6-7 and 220 pounds. “I haven’t had a lot of time to comprehend all that’s happened because I’ve been so busy playing.”
Those who have seen Bryan and Patrick play are eagerly waiting to see if the younger Ivie will be able to equal or surpass his brother’s achievements.
“I’ve watched Pat play all through high school,” Yoder said, “and he’s a far superior high school volleyball player than his brother was at this point. He is very fine-skilled and does some amazing things.”
Patrick followed his brother’s lead into volleyball and began playing competitively as a freshman at Mira Costa. He joined the Torrance Volleyball Club in the summer of ’87 and has been playing the game year-round since then.
He initially also went out for the water polo and basketball teams at Mira Costa, but found they left him little time for volleyball.
“I had been playing volleyball on the beach since I was a kid,” Patrick said. “But when I started playing competitively in high school, I really started to love the game. I wanted to devote all of my time to it.”
Patrick played on the junior varsity his sophomore year, but has started on the varsity for Coach Cook the past two seasons. As a junior, he was All-Ocean League and All-CIF, helping lead Mira Costa to a runner-up finish in the 4-A playoffs to Corona del Mar.
This year’s team may be the finest ever assembled at the school. The Mustangs, a traditional power in the sport, have three players in addition to Ivie who have received Division I scholarships: middle blocker Mike Ashenfelter (USC), setter Canyon Ceman (Stanford) and outside hitter David Swatik (UCLA).
“I had a chance to watch my brother play when he was here, and that was a very neat feeling,” Patrick said. “But I really want to win that CIF title for my brother because he never had a chance to. It would really mean a lot.”
The brothers get their height from their father, Floy Ivie, who is 6-6. Their mother, Ella, is just 5-2. David Ivie, the oldest of the family’s three children, is 6-3 but never played competitive volleyball.
“These are beach kids, so the fact that they ended up in volleyball isn’t really a big surprise,” Floy said. “But I am surprised how far they’ve gone with the game.”
USC first-year Coach Jim McLaughlin said signing Patrick was a major coup, and he figures the younger Ivie will have a legitimate chance at a starting job next year.
“Patrick is probably the No. 1 overall player in high school because he can do so many things,” said McLaughlin, who worked as an assistant at Pepperdine for four years before going to USC. “The thing I like about him is that he can block, pass and set, which makes him a very effective threat.
“When we were recruiting him, I told him he will be a different player than his brother and that there wouldn’t be the same expectations. Patrick will play a different position and contribute in other ways. What I really like about him, though, is his strong desire to win. He’s incredibly competitive.”
Patrick, who at 6-5 and 195 pounds feels he may be done growing, will likely switch to outside hitter in college. He said he may be a little short for middle blocker.
The opportunity to play together is appealing for Bryan and Patrick, since neither has played on an organized team at the same time.
“During the recruiting period, I didn’t pressure Patrick to come here at all,” Bryan said. “I remained low-key and told him I wanted it to be his own decision. But I was hoping he would choose USC because I feel we can make a winning team. I’m really looking forward to helping and playing with him.”
The brothers say they have a close and open relationship, one with few fights and plenty of room for long talks. They regularly watch each other play and evaluate each other’s performances.
“My brother is very inspiring to me and helps me out whenever I ask him to,” Patrick said. “My brother is a great player, and I wanted to go to USC because I wanted to be surrounded by the best. I still have a lot of learning to do.”
Said Bryan: “Patrick is a good high school player who is ready to take his game one step further. I hope we can both learn from each other.”