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Posted 26 Mar 2001   For week ended March 09, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 08Mar01

By Kent Larsen

Lebron Changes on Road from Puerto Rico to BYU All-star

PROVO, UTAH -- With BYU's men's volleyball team marking a 12-1 record and ranked #1 in the US, Hector Lebron seems destined to be on another NCAA championship team. But since his previous appearance on BYU's champion 1999 team, Lebron has changed at lot.

A native of Puerto Rico, Lebron was raised by a single mother after his father left when he was just five years old. He hasn't seen him since. He then found volleyball, and at age 13 joined a club team, becoming one of Puerto Rico's best young players. As a member of the Puerto Rican team, he traveled to junior tournaments throughout the US, and after graduating from high school, looked around the US for a place to play and get a University degree.

Improbably, the Puerto Rican hero Ossie Antionetti, one of the islands best volleyball players ever, had been to BYU, and when asked, his mother told Lebron to go to BYU to play. Lebron had never heard of the school. But after trying out, he squeaked onto the team, earning a partial scholarship and a lukewarm offer from BYU because the coaches considered him a marginal player.

Struggling through his first two years at BYU, Lebron missed the lifestyle in Puerto Rico, and took out his struggles on BYU's honor code. "For a non-church guy from Puerto Rico, BYU was too straight, too tight," he says. "I broke the rules, I partied, I went to clubs to drink. I wrote a letter to [coach] Carl [McGown], telling him I wanted to transfer."

But McGown saw something in Lebron, and convinced him to stay. As a junior, everything started to click, and Lebaron took over the role of setter. That year BYU won the national championship, and Lebaron was named an All-American. "That was one of the most amazing things I'd ever experienced," he says. "Winning like that. It gives me chills just thinking about it. I got better as a player, the team was great, my whole outlook changed. I partied less, and worked more."

But McGown took him down a notch the next year, redshirting Lebaron because he believed the team last year wouldn't be as good. After first fighting the move, Lebaron decided to use the time to improve his game -- and himself. He joined the LDS Church, and his attitude changed even more. And he improved his game even more.

In retrospect, Lebaron says that he's happy with the way things worked out. "I've changed my ways here. When I first came, I wanted to party and be a superstar. Now, I want to help my team, I want us to win one more championship. It feels great. It's amazing how far my life has come."


Cougar Setter Takes Strange Route to Top
Salt Lake Tribune 5Mar01 S2
By Gordon Monson


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