International tennis recruiting benefits both team, players

Graduate transfer Ryan Dickerson and the Baylor men's tennis team huddles up prior to their match against Nebraska on Jan. 20 at the Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center. The Bears swept the Huskers 7-0. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Editor

By Braden Simmons | Reporter

In a sport dominated by countries abroad, Baylor men’s tennis gains recruits from all over the world. The game of tennis is progressing, and players are taking advantage of the improvement of Division I to prepare for the professional stage.

Players competing in tennis before coming to college are ranked in a similar way to football and basketball. The top 800 players are rated by stars from one to five. The top 25, also known as blue chips, are the best of the best and are highly recruited.

Graduate transfer Ryan Dickerson said before Baylor, his recruitment with Duke came down to the program bringing in four other five-star blue chips and that he used the competition to improve.

“It was an unbelievable opportunity to grow with them for four years,” Dickerson said.”

Dickerson said after a broken foot during his junior year, he felt he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the professional level due to the injury. He decided to transfer to a place that would prepare him for the next step.

“I knew that I wanted to go to a place that has a great culture,” Dickerson said. “With Coach [Brian] Boland and the players coming in, I knew I could improve in this environment.”

Freshmen Sebastian Nothhaft said he opened up his recruitment in June, when he was undecided on whether to go straight to the professional level or to the collegiate level where he would also gain an education.

“I decided that the better route for me was going to play college tennis,” Notthaft said. “At the time, I was playing junior tennis internationally and rose to 72 in the world.”

Nothhaft said that after coming in contact with the coaches, he felt that Baylor was the right place to be based on their medical staff, the organization and head coach Brian Boland’s elite record.

Deciding to play college tennis is difficult for many tennis players. Boland said he knows the competitiveness that comes with collegiate tennis is challenging but it also comes with great reward.

“I’ve been fortunate to have been recruiting for 20 years, and for most, the opportunity to grow and develop in college as both a person and player is important,” Boland said. “College tennis is respected both here and around the world, and more juniors are spending some time or four years in college.”

According to the College Tennis Online website, recruiting international players is a topic disagreed upon by some coaches, but it is known that these players help to create the best tennis programs in the country. The players help drive the competition in Division I play and push the athletes to develop into professional players.

Whether a player is being recruited from America or abroad, Dickerson said a complete game and a professional mindset is needed to compete at the collegiate stage.

“Most international players come to college wanting to go professional and college is their back up plan,” Dickerson said. “I was around a really good environment and learned from top players with a great coach that taught me professional discipline. I had a coach that worked with the South Korean Davis Cup team where I learned from them how to train during my junior year, and that experience was why I was ready to play at the next level.”

Whether the players are developed in the states or abroad, Boland said he will approach the recruitment process the same way.

Boland said the process starts with correspondence with the player followed by a visit and an evaluation of the player. If things continue to go well an official visit at Baylor is set up. Sometimes, the process will take a long time, but it’s a huge decision and the last thing Boland said he wants to do is to rush it.

“Creating a team of a group of guys that come from different cultures and places around the world is a pretty special experience for so many of these young students,” Boland said. “It’s important that regardless if you’re coming from California or Europe, it’s hard for student-athletes to come into a new situation and make adjustments.”

The 12th-ranked Bears are set for a matchup against sixth-ranked Wake Forest at 5 p.m. Thursday at Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center.