All-Area Boys' Tennis Player of Year: Austin Aten
CHAMPAIGN — Tennis recruiting doesn’t take on the high-stakes nature of football and basketball recruiting.
Stars aren’t attached to players’ names. An official campus visit doesn’t send social media into a tizzy.
Austin Aten knows.
The recent Champaign Central graduate and The News-Gazette’s Area Tennis Player of the Year had to seek out colleges.
“It was tough,” Aten said. “I did everything on my own. I went on tennisrecruiting.net and looked up all the different colleges. I emailed at least 20 coaches of schools that I liked to see who would have any interest at all. Whichever ones replied, those were the ones I looked at.”
Aten started the process at the beginning of his junior year. By then, all indications pointed to the fact Aten would play collegiate tennis. He just didn’t know where.
He sought out the help of Illinois coach Brad Dancer, whom he had gotten to know while playing at Atkins Tennis Center. Through the process, Dancer served as a mentor, Aten said, and he listed Dancer as a reference if college coaches came calling.
They did. Aten settled on the University of Indianapolis, a Division II school, after sifting through his options. The combination of an athletic and academic scholarship from Indianapolis were main reasons Aten will head two hours east — he moves into college Aug. 20 — and continue his tennis career.
The four-time state qualifier, who finished this season with a 35-3 record in singles play to top his four-year career with a 110-21 mark in singles, wanted to attend Iowa. And play for the Hawkeyes. His former personal coach at Atkins, Alex Vos, lives in Iowa City now.
“Alex kind of turned into my brother, basically,” Aten said. “We’re very close. His wife works at Iowa. I visit there all the time. That’s why I liked Iowa so much.”
The pull of having the chance to play Big Ten tennis weighed on the mind of Bill Aten’s son. As did the cost of college.
“For his age, he’s very mature, and he’s been very mature all his life,” Bill Aten said. “It was a relief to his parents (that he chose Indianapolis) because Iowa didn’t want to give him that much of an athletic scholarship. He knocked off about $30,000. It was a decision that was a very wise decision on his part. It showed a lot of maturity.”
Maturity that Central coach Scott Davis has seen in full supply since 2011.
“He’s got a quiet sense of confidence about him,” Davis said. “He’s not overly boastful, but you feel a sense of confidence when he plays. He’s a bright young man.”
Aten made himself a known commodity around the Champaign-area tennis courts based on his high school success and results in USTA tournaments. Not bad for a former baseball player who lived in Atwood until fifth grade before his family moved to Monticello, where they stayed until Aten’s eighth- grade year before relocating to Champaign.
“We were aware of him when he was in eighth grade, hoping that he would be coming to Central,” Davis said. “I had seen him play a little bit at Atkins, and there really wasn’t much of a question about how good he was.”
Maturity off the court parlayed into maturity on the court. When Aten hit his growth spurt in high school, he adapted his game. By toning it down.
“I feel like I got a lot smarter strategywise instead of just blasting the ball the whole time,” Aten said. “It helped my game so much. It made the matches easier. Matches that used to be close, I ended up starting to beat kids that I used to have problems with. I’m a lot calmer on the court.”
Patient, too. Aten received this honor from The News-Gazette after his freshman season but had to wait three more years before solidifying himself again as the area’s top player. Davis, however, feels he’s had the best player the last four seasons. One he doesn’t want to see go.
“He’s been an anchor for four years,” Davis said. “When you have a No. 1 player of that caliber, everything else fits into place that much easier. It’s been four years of being able to pencil in Austin Aten at No. 1 singles. I probably will do it just out of habit next year.”
The News-Gazette Boys’ Tennis Athletes of the Year ...
YEAR ATHLETES SCHOOL
2014 Austin Aten Champaign Central
2013 Alex Mestre, Edo Roth Uni High
2012 Sunny Singh Centennial
2011 Austin Aten Champaign Central
2010 Mauricio Gonzalez Centennial
2009 David Ruedi Centennial
2008 Ruedi, Quinn Miller Centennial
2007 Rodrigo Miller Champaign Central
2006 Chad Simpson Danville
2005 Chad Simpson Danville
... and Coaches of the Year.
2014 Scott Davis Champaign Central
2013 Scott Davis Champaign Central
2012 Scott Davis Champaign Central
Austin Aten, at a glance
Why he’s the Boys’ Tennis Player of the Year: Hardly anyone was better in the area as Aten compiled a 35-3 record in singles play, with two of his losses coming at the state tournament, where he went 4-2 before losing in a sixth-round consolation match. Aten won a sectional title in singles and won the No. 1 singles championship at the Big 12 meet to help the Maroons win the conference title.
A few of my favorites: Last text to Catlyn Baker ... Favorite food is cheese pizza from Papa Del’s ... First job was teaching tennis lessons with the park district ... Role model is Alex Vos ... Snowboarding is sport I’d like to try but haven’t ... Driving a Lexus RS300 ... Favorite restaurant is The Cheesecake Factory ... Favorite entertainer is Beyonce ... Favorite athlete is Maria Sharapova ... Favorite class is anatomy
Three things on my bucket list are: Go to Australia, go to the U.S. Open and meet Maria Sharapova
In 10 years, I see myself: probably still in school since I’m going into pre-med.
College plans: I’m going to the University of Indianapolis to play tennis and major in pre-med.
About Aten: “What’s nice is as good as he is, he’s not complacent. He just hasn’t decided he’s going to sit on his game and not improve. He’s reshaped his body and gotten bigger and stronger. He’s improved his serve and has gotten more refined. He’s added different aspects, too, like slice to his game. When he first got here he would pound the ball from the baseline. He developed more and more his ability to come in behind shots and change things if necessary.” — Central coach Scott Davis