Thursday, February 27, 1997

M. HOOPS:

Crowd favorite Myers has achievements on, off basketball courtBy
Emmanuelle Ejercito

Daily Bruin Staff

For Bob Myers, UCLA has been like a stage for a Hollywood
movie.

No, not "Blue Chips." Not "Hoosiers" either.

"We refer to Bob as our Forrest Gump and we say that in a
complimentary way," UCLA head coach Steve Lavin said. "He’s had
this kind of Forest Gump kind of destiny ­ the box of
chocolates, every day it’s a new adventure for Bob Myers."

Although Myers lettered in basketball at Monte Vista High School
in Danville, Calif. he did not even fathom the idea of playing for
an established basketball institution like UCLA.

Myers wanted to continue playing organized sports in order to
stay in shape, so he figured he would take the route of his older
brother, who rowed for Washington.

When Myers visited UCLA in his senior year of high school ­
prior to deciding on the college of his choice ­ he wandered
into J.D. Morgan Center, hoping to talk to the head coach of the
crew team.

But something funny happened on his way to joining the crew
team.

As Myers strolled through the athletic offices on that fateful
day in 1993, he happened to stumble upon the restricted-earnings
third assistant basketball coach named Steve Lavin.

As it turned out, Lavin knew Myers’ high school coach, so the
two chatted for a bit before Lavin suggested Myers try out for the
basketball team.

"(When) he said ‘Well what about basketball?’ I laughed," Myers
said.

But he stopped laughing long enough to try out for the
basketball team. And things have just snowballed from there.

For someone who didn’t have schools knocking down his door, save
for a local junior college, Myers has experienced success and
accolades most basketball players only fantasize about.

The senior forward has been part of a team that has won
back-to-back conference titles and is poised to win a third. He is
a proud owner of a national championship ring. He was invited to
the White House and has appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
His image was immortalized on the cover of Sports Illustrated,
lifting Tyus Edney in the air after Edney’s 4.8-second miracle in
1995. And even more impressive, he rode on a float with Mickey
Mouse in a Disneyland ticker-tape parade.

The former walk-on worked his way into a scholarship at the
beginning of his sophomore year. And his minutes played have
progressively increased. He even started three games this season
(against Cal State Northridge, Morgan State, and USC) in the place
of J.R. Henderson.

"That’s another thing that I thought that I would never do,
starting for a UCLA basketball team," Myers said. "It’s something
that I will look back on and tell my kids and my grandkids: ‘Yeah,
I started a couple of games.’"

Tonight in Pauley Pavilion, the UCLA men’s basketball team (17-7
overall, 11-3 Pac-10) takes on Oregon State (7-17, 3-12), the
school against which Myers had his biggest success.

In last year’s home matchup with the Beavers, Myers played a
career-high 22 minutes and scored a career-high 20 points. Myers
was the hero of game, lifting the Bruins to a 69-60 victory over
Oregon State.

But his achievements are not limited to the hardwood. Myers has
also found success in the land of academia.

Don’t ask Myers about "Must-See-TV," balancing school and
basketball leaves little time for leisurely activities like
watching the tube. But missing episodes of "Beverly Hills, 90210"
and "Melrose Place" has paid off.

The Business-Economics major maintains the highest GPA on the
basketball team, is consistently on the Athletic Director’s Honor
Roll (which requires a minimum 3.0 GPA), and has earned honorable
mention Academic All-Pac 10 honors.

"Bob Myers is the kind of guy that is going to say the right
thing, and do the right thing," Lavin said. "He sounds like a Boy
Scout, like someone on ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ ­ too good
to be true ­ a ‘Sesame Street’ character. But he’s really just
Bob.

"That’s the beauty of it, his name is Bob. He’s just Bob."

It is this Bob-ness which has made Myers a crowd favorite over
the years. The UCLA Marching Band even has a cheer created solely
for him. Maybe he’s popular because he delivers pizza to the fans
camping out for priority numbers, like he did last Saturday on the
eve of the Duke game. Or maybe it’s because Bob Myers is an
Everyman.

"Maybe the band realizes that maybe they could be me," Myers
said. "People can relate to my story more than to Charles
(O’Bannon)’s or Toby (Bailey)’s ­ somebody that can jump out
of a gym or is an amazing athlete ­ I’m not really an amazing
athlete so maybe the fans can relate more to my situation.

"I guess people naturally cheer for an underdog, but it’s
amazing how good the fans have been to me my four years here."

Soon the credits will start rolling for Myers, and he’ll be
leaving with a smile.

"I’ve loved my time at UCLA," Myers said. "I wouldn’t trade it
for anything in the world and basketball has been a bonus. It’s
something that I will always remember and look back on."

JUSTIN WARREN/Daily Bruin

Walk-on Bob Myers has provided a spark off the bench for the
Bruin team.