Monday, August 9, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Blue hopes King will be conference royalty
Chicago native Evan
King is the future of
the Michigan men's
By ANDREW HADDAD
Daily Sports Writer
There have been a handful of great
Michigan men's tennis players over
the last thirty seasons, with the likes
of MaliVai Washington, Dan Brakus
and Matko Maravic having donned
the maize and blue.
In the late 1980s, Washington was
the No. 1 ranked player in the coun-
try his sophomore season, eventually
going on to become a top-15 player on
the pro tour. Brakus was an All-Amer-
ican in 1994, and Maravic was All-Big
Ten from 2005 to 2008.
And now, Michigan has a player
with the potential to be as good, if not
better than, the legendary trio.
His name is Evan King.
King, an 18-year-old sophomore
from Chicago, is Michigan's first
Big Ten Freshman of the Year since
Brakus in 1991.
He was also the No. 1 Under-18
player in the country during high
school and, in the opinion of Michigan
coach Bruce Berque, the most hyped
recruit in school history.
In particular, King shares more
with Washington than just a school
and extraordinary talent - neither
are particularly powerful hitters, but
both are quick and have balanced all-
around games, although King is a lefty
and Washington is a righty.
Both also started playing casu-
ally with their parents with no future
aspirations before realizing their
Michigan men's tennis sophomore Evan King was 21-13 in singles play last seasc
potential and beginning to take pri-
"I started playing tennis when I
was about three," King says. "My par-
ents both played casually. They would
bring me on the court with them and
have me randomly hit balls, and I
guess I just picked it up. When I got
to be ranked in the top 5 nationally
for 12-and-unders, I started to real-
ize, 'Hey, I'm pretty good at this,' but
even at that point, I didn't really think
about a future in tennis. I was just
King attended Walter Payton Col-
lege Prep in Chicago for two years
before moving to Boca Raton, Florida
and training with the USTA High
Performance program, where he blos-
somed into the No. 1 Under-18 player
in the country. He has appeared on
the covers of Rise and USTA Maga-
zine. And while King never consid-
ered it, most teenagers of his caliber
skip college and try to join the pro
tour as soon as possible.
"Ever since I was good enough to
even have tennis come into my mind,
I wanted to play college tennis," King
said. "When I was 14, I got to see a big
college tournament, and I was just
struck by how exciting it was, espe-
cially the team aspect, since in juniors
you're playing for yourself all the time.
"In college, you have six other guys
on the court at the same time. I'd much
rather be a part of that than traveling
around to a bunch of random, little
countries, barely making anything."
King's college decision came down
to Michigan, Ohio State and Illinois.
Even though the latter two have
dominated the Big Ten for years, King
chose Michigan in order to become
the piece de resistance of a recent run
of strong recruiting classes for the
"I liked all three schools when I
visited," he said. "My dad's a Michigan
alum, so that was a small factor. But it
came down to the fact that Michigan
is the better school academically and
also, I really like our coaching staff.
On top of that, it's nice to join a pro-
gram that's on the rise and not one
that's already been there, done that."
King skipped kindergarten, so he
only turned 18 this March near the
end of the season. But playing oppo-
nents three or four years older didn't
seem to bother him; he alternated
between No. 1 and No. 2 singles with
Jason Jung and had an impressive
However, there were some setbacks
along the way. The most notable one
was his loss to Pepperdine in Feb. In
his first match at No. 1 singles, King
dropped the first set before rallying
to take a 5-4, 40-15 lead in the second.
On set point, King hit an apparent ace,
but his opponent made a questionable
call. After an argument and accusa-
tions of cheating from the crowd,
King lost his cool and dropped the set
in a tiebreaker.
"That was definitely my biggest
regret of the year," King says now. "I
should still have won that game. An
important part of college tennis is
"I wasn't ready for that at the time,
so I blew up and lost my cool, but I've
come to realize that that sort of thing
shouldn't surprise you when it hap-
pens. If it happens again I'll react dif-
ferently, more calm and mellow like I
Another disappointment was the
team's inability to get past Big Ten
kingpins Ohio State and Illinois.
Michigan has gone from winning 16
consecutive Big Ten titles in the '70s
and '80s to not winning one since
1996, and the Buckeyes and Fighting
Illini have dominated the conference
It was no different last year, as
Michigan went 0-4 against the two
teams, getting knocked out from the
Big Ten Tournament by Illinois and
from the NCAA Tournament by Ohio
But things are looking up for the
Wolverines. They return five letter-
winners, including the All-Big Ten
Jung, and a 2010 recruiting class that
was ranked No. 1 nationally. If King
continues to fulfill his massive poten-
tial, Michigan has a very good chance
to topple the Big Ten power structure
"I plan on
sticking it out
all four years at
and reclaim its place at the top of the
"Our number one goal is absolute-
ly to win the Big Ten," King says. "I
think we can definitely do it. We gave
OSU and Illinois a run for their money
last year, so if a few things went our
way we could've been Big Ten cham-
pions last year."
Washington left Michigan to join
the pro tour after his sophomore
year. Had he stayed all four years, he
could've become one of the greatest
college players of all-time. King insists
that there won't be any such 'what-if'
questions about his college career.
"I plan on sticking it out all four
years at Michigan," King says. "If
I was to become ridiculously good
and be guaranteed to do something
on the pro tour, then that would be
hard to pass up, but that's a long way
away, and I still have a ton of room for
improvement here in Ann Arbor."
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