Boland, Bears await freshman recruit’s decision

By DJ Ramirez | Sports Editor, Video by Drake Toll | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor men’s tennis head coach Brian Boland walked into the Hurd Tennis Center on Monday morning with a cup of coffee in his hand, despite the fact that it was Labor Day, after having returned from New York City.

The second-year head coach had spent the last week watching his top recruit compete in one of the biggest tournaments the sport of tennis has to offer: the US Open.

Eighteen-year-old Jenson Brooksby, who signed a letter of intent last December to play tennis for Baylor, made an impression worldwide when he became the only American to qualify for the men’s singles main draw followed by a four-set victory over ATP veteran Tomas Berdych in the first round.

The buzz around Brooksby only grew as he entered the second round against No. 17 Nikoloz Basilashvili last Thursday. After his first-round win, the California native had been offered a prize of $163,000, and if he were to defeat his opponent on Thursday, he would have added much more.

Taking the prize money, however, meant forfeiting his scholarship to Baylor and saying goodbye to college tennis.

As Brooksby took the stage once again, the world was watching. His future teammates at Baylor were watching. And so was his future coach.

In the eyes of Boland, Brooksby is the perfect addition to an already talented squad.

“I mean Jenson, in the amount of time that I’ve spent with him, and certainly I’ve spent a great deal of time watching him and being around him lately, he fits in perfectly,” Boland said. “He’s an incredible young man, really likeable, a natural leader, somebody that has the discipline that we want to build this program around. For his age, he’s way beyond his years in terms of his professionalism and the way that he treats others and the way that he competes. I mean, he’s one of the best competitors that I’ve seen at that age in many years.”

While Brooksby was knocked out of the Grand Slam by Basilashvili in an intense 4-set match, the question of whether he will decide to play collegiate tennis after his performance in the Open is still up in the air.

Boland, however, is not really worried about the uncertainty of Brooksby’s decision, noting that the incoming freshman understands what the collegiate game is about.

“He loves the concept of team. He wants to be part of a team and he understands the pressures that come with that,” Boland said. “So he’ll come in with a little bit of a target on his back. But the great thing about Jenson is he embraces that. He wants that pressure.”

And the team is excited for Brooksby to join as well, according to senior Constantin Frantzen.

“He would bring a lot of potential, I would say, in the team. I mean he played an unbelievable tournament at the Open and it’s just impressive how he did that,” Frantzen said. “He got a lot of respect, not just from me but from all of the teammates and the coaches […] I think he would bring a lot of competitiveness to our team.”

Whether or not Brooksby becomes a Bear come January would not change the team’s ultimate goal of reaching the national tournament at the end of the spring.

In his first year at Baylor, Boland led the Bears to a Big 12 championship title and an appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. After winning four championships in five years with the University of Virginia, the head coach is excited to grow the Baylor men’s program in not just becoming champions on the court, but “champions for life.”

“I think this is what I believe I was meant to do,” Boland said. “You know, I always say to the guys that we all have to have a greater purpose and for me it’s to make the world a better place through tennis. And it sounds a little cliche or something that isn’t, but it’s really meaningful to me and I think we have a chance to impact young men to go out to be incredible leaders in the world, in their communities, in their families.”