Five years ago, the UCSB men’s volleyball team received a gift from both Princeton and Stanford.

Senior outside hitter Keith Busam, a top-50 recruit coming out of high school according to Volleyball Magazine, was rejected from both schools and ended up at Santa Barbara, the only other school he applied to.

“I was depressed I came here at first,” Busam said. “But it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. I found out who I was here; it was a blessing in disguise.”

Busam’s presence on this year’s young Gaucho squad has provided leadership and invaluable experience for UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston.

“He plays the game the way it should be played. He plays with enthusiasm, he has leadership capabilities, understands the game and motivates his players,” Preston said. “His leadership abilities have meant everything to this team; he has done it ever since he came into school five years ago.”

Busam has led the team in kills four times in 2003, including a career-best 18 against Stanford on Feb. 1. He has already accumulated 88 kills this season, six short of his previous three-year total.

Busam is most proud of his Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament Quarterfinals performance against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion last year.

“We were down two games and were trailing in the third game, when I came in and got two big aces, and we went on to win in five,” Busam said. “Without those two aces, we would have lost in three; it was a big win for our program. It was really cool to do it at Pauley because I hate the Bruins with a passion.”

Former Gauchos Andy Rivera and Matt Riley, along with teammate and best friend of seven years, sophomore libero Aaron Mansfield, have been big influences on Busam’s college career. Mansfield and Busam also share another common bond off the court and on the golf course.

“I’m terrible at golf, but it teaches me patience. It makes you realize that every play is not going to be perfect,” Busam said.

“Don’t ever let the highs get too high and the lows get too low,” Busam said. “I’ve been here through the times we were #2 in the nation, to the times we were unranked and losing. It feels like I got here yesterday, but time flies by so quick. Never let an opportunity slip away; take advantage of every serve and play you get.”

However, Busam declared that his greatest accomplishment isn’t in the athletic arena.

“Being an Eagle Scout is probably what I am most proud of,” Busam said. “You have to be a good person, and it shows me how to be the person I would like to be: community-minded and putting other people before myself.”

Busam will lead the Gauchos (4-9, 1-6 in the MPSF) this weekend as #4 BYU comes to Santa Barbara this Friday and Saturday at 7 at The Rob.

“Santa Barbara can be a good team,” BYU Head Coach Tom Peterson said. “They are traditionally good and are a scrappy team They have a home crowd and are feisty, which is a sign of a good team. We have to match that in order to play well.”

Seven Cougars have 35 plus kills this season, and junior outside hitter Jonathan Alleman leads the team with 146. Key to the Cougars (7-1) offense is sophomore setter Carlos Moreno, who has registered 422 assists this year.

“We are good because we are deep,” Peterson said. “We have good personnel at all positions.”

Santa Barbara is ahead of only San Diego in the MPSF standings, and two wins this weekend would go a long way toward getting in the playoffs.