Read & Watch: C’Mon, Mom! Fritz Remembers Mixed Doubles At 12
Fritz’s mother, Kathy May, reached the Top 10 in the WTA Rankings
Growing up, Taylor Fritz’s journey towards his goal of making it onto the ATP Tour included hundreds of tournament appearances.
But one particular event, at home in San Diego, brings back particularly fond memories. At the age of 12, Fritz teamed up with his mother, former Top 10 star Kathy May Fritz, to compete in a prestigious mother-son event at his local club.
“One of the biggest mother-son tournaments in the country just happened to be in San Diego where I live. So, it was easy, we would just play it,” said Fritz. “My mom was a former Top 10 player and she still played a lot, so she was, for sure, the best mom in the competition.
“I was only 12 years old, so her and I were probably at a very similar level. She might have been better than me at the time. We were playing against a lot of college guys and older guys, so it was tough for me but we got to the quarter-finals.”
While leading their quarter-final match, Kathy May suffered an unfortunate calf injury. But Taylor, desperate to progress in the competition, forced his mother to continue playing in the hope of closing out the victory.
“In the middle of the quarter-final match, she popped her calf and couldn’t play any more,” said Fritz. “We were winning and I was a 12-year-old kid. I wanted to win so bad. I forced her to keep going and finish the match and we ended up winning.
“We got third place in the tournament, but it was just funny because I made her keep playing when she really couldn’t walk. Now, looking back at it, it is just a mother-son at the local club near my house so it was not that big of a deal. But, back then, it was all that mattered.”
Fritz’s passion for the sport has been on full display this year, as the 21-year-old has risen 21 positions to a career-high No. 28 in the ATP Rankings. The American claimed his first ATP Tour crown at the Nature Valley International in June (d. Querrey) and also advanced to the BB&T Atlanta Open championship match last week (l. to De Minaur).
But Fritz knows that he would not be where he is today without the support of his mother. Kathy May has travelled to events and helped her son work on the strategic side of his game.
“I spent a lot of time on the court with my mom and she taught me a lot of things,” said Fritz. “It has definitely helped me along the way. She definitely helped me make decisions and she came to tournaments and she coached me and gave me strategies.”
Now living closer to Los Angeles, can Fritz see himself one day travelling down the coast with his mother to claim the top prize?
“I am sure we could go back now, if we really wanted to. I wouldn’t be getting bullied by the college guys anymore. That could be fun.”
British number two Dan Evans lost in the Washington Open first round after appearing to struggle in hot conditions against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
Evans, 29, lost nine of the final 10 games in a 6-4 6-1 defeat.
World number 51 Evans started the match strongly by breaking Nishioka’s serve for a 2-0 lead, but could not back it up by holding in the next game.
Nishioka, ranked 77th, broke again for 5-4 and served out the opener, going on to dominate a 27-minute second set.
British number Kyle Edmund returns to action for the first time since Wimbledon when he plays 22-year-old South African Lloyd Harris, who took a set off Roger Federer in the first round at the All England Club, later on Tuesday.
The Professor Is Back: Chung Returns At Chengdu Challenger
Hyeon Chung kicks off comeback after five months on sidelines
With today’s stars fighting for top prizes on the hard courts of North America, it’s an exciting time to be following the ATP Tour. This week, all eyes are on the Citi Open in Washington, as the ATP 500 event takes centre stage.
In 2018, Hyeon Chung was seeded eighth in the U.S. capital, as the newly-minted Top 20 star continued his ascent. Flash forward one year and Chung is competing once again on hard courts, but this time you won’t find the Korean in the cozy confines of Rock Creek Park. Travel nearly 8,000 miles west to Chengdu, China, and 23-year-old is celebrating a second-round victory on the ATP Challenger Tour.
After more than five months on the sidelines, Chung is back.
“I’m really happy to be back on the tour again,” Chung told ATPChallengerTour.com. “I had a back injury. I’ve missed the competition a lot and just being out there. It felt good to play today. It’s my first tournament since February, so I’m just happy to be on court.”
With little fanfare at the Sichuan International Tennis Center, Chung earned his first victory since January as he kicked off his comeback from a back injury. A 6-3, 6-2 win over Kento Takeuchi was a big step for the former World No. 19. The setting was irrelevant. He was just happy to be back.
“I missed a lot tournaments and few Grand Slams. I fell out of the Top 100 too. But my back feels great and that’s why I’ve come back now. I’m ready to go. I’ve been practising, doing rehab and treatment since February. I’m happy to be back in Chengdu. The city is nice and the fans are great.”
It was just last year that the man they call ‘The Professor’ was taking the ATP Tour by storm. Chung announced himself to the tennis world with a semi-final finish at the Australian Open, a mere months after lifting the trophy at the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals.
Behind an aggressive, attacking mentality and tactical prowess, Chung was putting the rest of the tour on notice. A straight-sets win over Novak Djokovic in Melbourne was followed by deep runs at the ATP Masters 1000 stops in Indian Wells and Miami. The Korean would become the first from his country to crack the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings.
But, despite his immediate wealth of success, Chung’s body was not cooperating. A persistent back injury plagued him throughout the second half of 2018 and he would eventually decide to take a break after the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam in February. He has not competed since.
“There’s some stress and it’s not what I wanted, because I was playing really good last year. But I’m just trying to stay positive all the time. I don’t know why I’ve been injured so much, but I’m trying to stay focused.”
Despite the frustrating first half of the season, Chung can take solace in the fact that he’s come back from a similar situation. In 2016, he enjoyed a successful return from an abdominal injury, immediately reaching back-to-back finals on the ATP Challenger Tour, including a title in Kaohsiung. Two months later, he added a second trophy in Kobe, Japan, as he pushed towards a return to the Top 100.
Three years later, Chung is in similar territory, having slipped from his Top 20 perch to a current standing of No. 166 in the ATP Rankings. The Suwon native says he is taking it one step at a time and has already found inspiration from his countryman Soon-woo Kwon.
The 21-year-old Kwon has emerged as one of the brightest stars on the ATP Challenger Tour this year. The top-ranked Korean, at No. 112 in the ATP Rankings, he owns a staggering 31-12 record with titles in Yokohama and Seoul. And last week, Kwon earned his first ATP Tour match win in Atlanta.
“Soon-woo is playing really well so far this year,” Chung added. “We’re really good friends and we’ve practised a lot together. We train for Davis Cup together and just whenever we have the time. We’re close and I’m really happy to see him play well. I think he’s going to keep playing better.
“I’ve been injured, but I’m still happy to be part of that younger group, also with Tsitsipas, De Minaur, Fritz and the others. I’m hoping to continue following them.”
Kohlschreiber Ends Losing Streak, Cruises Past Gasquet In Kitzbuhel
Ruud defeats eighth seed Carreno Busta
Two-time champion Philipp Kohlschreiber snapped a five-match tour-level losing streak on Tuesday, beating Richard Gasquet 6-3, 6-2 at the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel.
The Kitzbuhel resident, who lifted the trophy in 2015 and 2017, claimed his first win since Roland Garros after 66 minutes, breaking the Frenchman’s serve on five occasions. Kohlschreiber now leads Gasquet for the first time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 3-2.
Kohlschreiber will be aiming to secure his 20th win at the ATP 250 clay-court event (19-9) when he meets Pablo Andujar in the second round. The Spaniard continued his fine run of form to eliminate sixth seed Leonardo Mayer 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Last week, Andujar reached the semi-finals in Gstaad before falling to eventual champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
#NextGenATP Norwegian Casper Ruud defeated eighth seed and Hamburg European Open semi-finalist Pablo Carreno Busta 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. The 20-year-old saved four of five break points to earn his 15th tour-level win of the season (15-9). Ruud will meet Matthias Bachinger of Germany for a spot in the quarter-finals.
Isner Living (And Eating) Large At Citi Taste Of Tennis
Citi Open players sample the best of the Washington, D.C food scene at one venue
John Isner was among several players who sampled some of the best food Washington has to offer at the Citi Taste of Tennis on Monday at The Hamilton Live on Monday night, marking the event’s second year in the nation’s capital.
Isner joined fellow Top 10 Russian Daniil Medvedev and more than 25 other Citi Open players, including former doubles World No. 1 Marcelo Melo, who earlier in the day celebrated his 500th career match win.
At the event, guests enjoyed an evening sampling fine food, sipping signature cocktails, mingling with their favourite players, live music and a cooking demonstration. A portion of proceeds raised at the Citi Taste of Tennis benefits the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation.
Citi Taste of Tennis ambassador Isner said, “These events are so much fun. You meet so many cool people and you eat a lot of great food. As a guy who likes to eat, this is a perfect venue for me tonight. There really aren’t any foods I don’t like.”
Medvedev said, “This is my first Citi Taste of Tennis. It’ a lot of fun. Many players told me I should come and try the great food prepared by so many leading chefs. I’m glad I’m here.
“As tennis players we travel to many countries and we try many foods. We burn a lot of calories on the court, so we like to eat.”
Executive chef Jerome Grant of Sweet Home Café said, “We have players from all over the world coming here to play and we’ve got folks from all these restaurants with different backgrounds, so it all goes hand in hand. Importantly, a lot of the proceeds from these nights go into building our tennis centres.”
Pro Tennis Players who attended: John Isner, Sloane Stephens, Chris Eubanks, Marcelo Melo, Jan-Lennard Struff, Matthew Ebden, Medvedev Daniil, Treat Huey, Shelby Rogers, Monica Puig, Kevin Krawietz, Rohan Bopanna, Denis Kudla, Francessca Di Lorenzo, Rosalie Vanderhoek, Alison Bal, Beatrice Gumulya, Jessy Rompies, Elixane Lechamie, Ingrid Neal, Quinn Gleason, Nikola Mektic, Mate Pavic, Franko Skugor, Denis Kudla, Brayden Schnur, and more.
The line-up of chef’s included: Jerome Grant (Sweet Home Café), Erik Bruner-Yang (Spoken English), John Mooney (Bidwell), Jaspratrap “Jassie” Bindra (Punjab Grill), Leo Harvey (Ocean Prime), Neil Cline & Brent Lettsome (British Virgin Islands), Paola Velez (Kith and Kin DC), Chris Kombou (Compass Rose), Gianluigi Dellaccio (Dolce Gelati), Dan Kennedy (Estuary), Michael Rafidi (Albi), Victor Albisu (Taco Bamba), Zach Smith (The Hamilton Live), and Adam Greenberg (Coconut Club).
The Citi Taste of Tennis series is produced by AYS Sports Marketing and was the brainchild of AYS’ founders Judi and Penny Lerner. Back in 2001 Judi and Penny, both longtime tennis fans, dreamed of creating an event that combined the international appeal of fine food and professional tennis. The Citi Taste of Tennis was born, and now 20 years later it has become one of the most anticipated “off the court” event at tennis tournaments nationwide.
Andy Murray says he could return to playing singles at the Cincinnati Masters next month.
The Briton, 32, has been competing in doubles since June having had a hip resurfacing operation in January.
He is playing doubles with brother Jamie at the Citi Open this week but had previously said it was “pretty unlikely” he would to play singles at the US Open, which starts on 26 August.
“Best-case scenario probably would be Cincinnati,” Murray said.
“Then if I wasn’t able to play in Cincinnati, there’s a good chance I would probably wait until after New York because I wouldn’t want my first tournament to be playing best of five [sets].”
The men’s singles event at Cincinnati starts on 11 August.
After playing with this brother this week in Washington, three-time Grand Slam champion Murray is due to partner Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the doubles at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, which begins on 5 August.
He and Lopez won the doubles title at Queen’s last month in the Scot’s first tournament since his career-extending surgery.
Murray last played in the mixed doubles with Serena Williams at Wimbledon, where they reached the third round.
Andy Murray column: Hard work starts now for possible singles return
Jamie Murray column: Playing with brother Andy, preparing for the hard court season and enjoying sunny Scotland
Kyrgios, Tsitsipas, Citi Open Pay Tribute To Aussie McNamara
Tournament honours the late Aussie with an on-court ceremony
ATP Tour stars, including Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios, paid tribute to the late Peter McNamara on Monday evening at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.
McNamara, a former Top 10 singles player who, along with fellow Aussie Paul McNamee, formed one of the best doubles teams in the early 1980s, died on 20 July aged 64 after a long fight with prostate cancer.
Aussie Rennae Stubbs, a former WTA player, emceed the on-court ceremony that followed the evening doubles match between Kyrgios/Tsitsipas and Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah.
“He was one of my idols,” Stubbs told ATPTour.com in an interview before the ceremony. “Peter was always such a great athlete, great competitor, great looking guy. He personified what Australian sports are all about.
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“Watching him coach, he was always so hard working and professional.
“He was the epitome of just an incredibly good man and kind, and he always had a good word to say about everybody. He was honest. He’s really going to be missed.”
For the past four years, until February 2019, McNamara worked with China’s Wang Qiang. When they started working together, in 2015, Qiang was ranked just inside the Top 100. She finished 2018 at No. 20, becoming the first Chinese woman to finish the year inside the Top 20 since Li Na retired in 2014.
Stubbs coached against McNamara and would see him around the WTA. But she had no idea he was battling prostate cancer. Aussie Matthew Ebden, who had McNamara as a coach about five years ago, remembered his countryman as never one to complain.
“He was very disciplined and hard working, two things I really got from him. He was honest and genuine,” Ebden said. “He was really respectful and had really sound manners and ethics.”
Escobedo: I Knew I Was Going To Have A Breakthrough
After three years, Ernesto Escobedo reflects on his journey back to the winners’ circle on the ATP Challenger Tour
All roads to the top are created differently. Few players take a linear path up the ATP Rankings, as they plot their ascent. Injuries, a loss of confidence and the struggle to maintain that winning formula all play a significant role. For Ernesto Escobedo, it was a long and trying journey, but one that the American had to endure to emerge with a trophy once again.
On Sunday, as he watched his opponent’s return sail long, Escobedo bent over and exhaled. A quick glance to his coach Jan-Michael Gambill confirmed it. After three years, he was a Challenger champion once again. While it was a muted celebration for the American, the victory certainly meant more than any other.
Escobedo reeled off six wins in seven days to lift the trophy at the Challenger Banque Nationale de Granby, culminating in a 7-6(5), 6-4 win over Yasutaka Uchiyama on Sunday. A native of Los Angeles, he initially broke through with a pair of Challenger titles in Lexington and Monterrey in 2016, cracking the Top 100 at No. 67. He was just 20 years old at the time and Escobedo is the first to admit that he wasn’t ready for the sudden surge of success.
Now, three years later, with new coach and former Top 20 star Gambill at the helm, he is thriving with a renewed mentality and approach. Most importantly, the 23-year-old they call ‘Neto’ is having fun again on the court.
He spoke to ATPChallengerTour.com following his victory in Granby…
After all these years, how did it feel to get that winning feeling back and lift the trophy? I wasn’t thinking it was three years. I knew it was a long time since I won a Challenger, but at the same time I wanted to stay in the moment and enjoy the tournament. I was just having a good time out there. I knew for the past three months that I’ve been practising really hard, so it was just me being patient and waiting for the right time.
You’ve been making steady progress this year. Did you feel this moment was coming? The last three tournaments I played, I did pretty well. They were really close matches I lost, so I wasn’t dwelling on them. I knew that I was playing well. I just told myself to stay patient and it’s going to happen. I knew that one of these weeks I was going to have a big breakthrough and it was this week in Granby.
Talk about the week in Granby. What was the key to put it all together? When you have six matches in seven days, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Challenger Tour or the ATP Tour. It’s so tough. And it was hot and humid conditions out there. But at the same time I knew that I’m super fit, so there wasn’t an issue there. I just felt like I had to compete 100 per cent every point, no matter the situation.
How has Jan-Michael Gambill made a difference with your game and your mental approach? I didn’t play much during the clay and grass seasons. I was just training hard and practising a lot back home with my coach. He was really tough with me, just training morning til night on and off the court. There was a lot of mental training as well. By this week, I felt like I was in a really good position to win.
How did the partnership come about and what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from him? We teamed up right after Monterrey, so around late March. He’s helped me so much, but the biggest thing is to just keep things simple. I’m a very simple guy. He’s kept things very basic and in that way, it was very easy for me to understand him and respond to his way of coaching. I just trust him a lot. He’s a great coach and has been up there in the Top 20, so he knows his stuff.
What was the toughest part of your struggles over the past few years? Was there ever a moment when you didn’t think you’d get back here? There were more downs than ups, for sure. I always knew that I had the game to win and be at the top, but I didn’t have the right team around me. It was getting to the point where it felt like a 9-5 job and it wasn’t something that I really enjoyed. Ever since Jan has been with me, it’s been great. It’s been fun again and enjoyable. I feel like I’m back there again. I’m still so far away with my ranking, but my game is definitely there.
Are you setting any goals for yourself or just taking it one step at a time? One step at a time. I’m going day-by-day pretty much. I’m playing Aptos next, then Vancouver. I’m not looking too far ahead.
And your win in Granby put you into US Open qualifying. Were you aware going into the final? I had no idea! And I’m leading the US Open wild card challenge. I had no idea of that either. Still two more weeks to go with that, but it feels good. I was hoping to at least get into qualies, so I’m pretty pumped.
Kokkinakis Gains First Tour-Level Win Since Federer Upset In Miami 2018
Aussie looking to get on a run in Mexico
Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis picked up his first tour-level win in 16 months on Monday at the Abierto Mexicano de Tenis Mifel presentado por Cinemex in Los Cabos.
The 23-year-old wild card saved eight of nine break points and swept past France’s Maxime Janvier 6-4, 6-4 to reach the second round in Mexico. Kokkinakis upset defending champion Roger Federer at the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau in March, but didn’t win a tour-level match the rest of the year and started 0-2 this season.
“It was very tricky, tricky conditions, very windy out there, and my opponent was trying to hit every ball as he hard as he could so I had to just try and stay patient, stay calm,” Kokkinakis said. “It got a bit yucky through the match, towards the end, but I found a way to win, which is good.”
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The talented right-hander has struggled with injuries throughout his young career. In January, Kokkinakis had to retire during the first round of the Australian Open because of a right shoulder injury that forced him to sit out until April. A right pectoral injury forced Kokkinakis to miss qualifying at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. He has played only five events this year.
“Hopefully I can stay healthy and put together some good runs, whether it’s this week or not. Hopefully for the rest of the year [I can] stay healthy,” Kokkinakis said.
He will next face fourth seed Lucas Pouille, who reached the Australian Open semi-finals but is 12-13 on the season. The two have never met at tour-level.
“We’ve been practising a lot this week. Lucas and I are pretty good friends… We know each other pretty well,” Kokkinakis said. “It’s going to be a very tough match, but I’ve been practising pretty well against him, so we’ll see what happens.”
Eighth seed Mikhail Kukushkin continued where he left off at Wimbledon when he made his second fourth round at a Grand Slam (l. to Nishikori). The 31-year-old right-hander beat Damir Dzumhur 7-5, 6-2 and will next face the winner between Brit Cameron Norrie and France’s Gregoire Barrere.
India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran fought through an up-and-down match against Aussie John Millman to advance 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. He will next meet fifth seed and Atlanta finalist Taylor Fritz or German qualifier Dominik Koepfer.
Exclusive: No Mistaking The Rapid Rise of Reilly Opelka
American 21-year-old is fast becoming the man no player wants to face on the ATP Tour
Reilly Opelka is at the ATP 250 tournament in Lyon, France, in the week before Roland Garros. A fan approaches with a photo to sign.
The only problem? It’s a photo of fellow American giant John Isner.
“The guy asks me how my foot was,” says Opelka with a smile. “I was like, ‘He’s a big enough Isner fan to know that he has a broken foot, he’s got a picture of him, but he’s not a big enough Isner fan to know that we look nothing alike.’
“I thought it was really funny. So I had to follow through and sign the picture. I mixed it up, though, signing it ‘Jon’.”
Such cases of mistaken identity may soon be a thing of the past. Opelka comes into this week’s Citi Open, the ATP 500 tennis tournament in Washington, D.C., in the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings for the first time in his career… and with no points to defend through the US Open, where last year he fell in the first round of qualifying.
His new mark is 43 and he’s already one of the most-feared servers in the game. Leveraging his 6’ 11” frame, Opelka has fired a tour-best 653 aces this season at an average of 21 a match. He is fourth on the list of most service games won (90.3%) and also fourth for most first-serve points won (81%).
But Opelka is far from one dimensional. His court coverage for a man his size is excellent, his forehand return from the deuce court is capable of producing searing winners at big moments and he can dig in for a fight on the baseline when circumstances require.
“He’s probably a little ahead of schedule,” Opelka’s coach of 19 months, Jay Berger, says of his progress. “Getting stronger in the body is going to be a big part of the next stage of his development.
“He’s got great hands. He’s a really good ball striker and people underestimate his athleticism and speed. His forward movement is incredible for someone of his size.”
That’s not by accident. Although Opelka says that his height has never diminished his athleticism, he doesn’t take it for granted. He does a lot of footwork drills involving ladders and beach workouts and recently began working with a device using flashing lights to improve explosive movement and reaction times.
With a 17-14 record in 2019, which includes his first title at the New York Open, it’s noteworthy that Opelka played just four tour-level matches last season for a modest 2-2 record. Despite a mid-season battle with mono, his 12-month rise up the rankings from 229 to 99 at the end of 2018 was built at the ATP Challenger Tour, where he won three titles from five finals, including back-to-back crowns in Knoxville and Champaign to end his year.
“It was part of the plan,” the Michigan native says. “Last year I wanted to play on the Challenger Tour and try to play and win as many matches as I could and learn a lot.
“I’ve always been confident and believed in myself that I could get to where I wanted to be. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’ve been patient.”
A side benefit of playing most of 2018 at the Challenger level is that competitors who haven’t seen much of him on the ATP Tour are still figuring out what game plan to deploy when they meet Opelka.
“The first time I play guys I think they almost underestimate my speed and ability from the baseline,” he says. “I play aggressively and make plenty of unforced errors, but when I need to stay in the point by scrapping and running balls down, I have no trouble doing that.
“I think a lot of guys are surprised by that and it’s won me a lot of matches this year because guys haven’t played me the right way. They’ve made balls thinking I would beat myself. I have a good record against those type of players.”
One player who knows Opelka better than most is the 6′ 10″ Isner, who has gone 0-3 against his young rival in 2019 meetings despite winning more points in two of those three matches. In total this year they have played 10 sets, all of which have gone to tie-breaks.
Last week in Atlanta, in a match featuring a combined 64 aces, Opelka edged Isner 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 7-6(5) after saving three break points deep in the decider. Earlier in the match he dug himself out of trouble on serve with some hyper-aggressive groundstroke winners in big moments.
“Sometimes I’ll step off the gas pedal if there is a time I need to make some balls, but my go-to instinct is to be aggressive,” Opelka says. “At big moments in a match it’s not too hard for me to do that, because it’s part of my game.
“When you look at the great players, at the big moments in matches, they play their brand of tennis.”
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Despite the similarities with Isner and the respect he has for his countryman, Opelka did not fashion his game on the 2018 Miami Open champion, or anyone for that matter.
“When I was young I looked up to Roddick and Blake and I loved Ferrer, but I didn’t model my game on anyone. I have a ton of respect for Isner and I still look up to John. He’s an unbelievable guy and a great competitor.”
Opelka attributes much of his success to the roles played by Berger, the former Top 10 American player, and his day-to-day travelling coach Jean-Yves Aubone. “JY is terrific to have on the road with me and Jay has been an unbelievable coach and mentor. I was 225 in the world when we started and he’s always believed in me. When we started I was kind of in a slump and lacking belief in myself.”
Berger is similarly complimentary about his charge. “He comes from a great family, he’s been raised the right way. Combine that with great mentoring from Tom Gullikson, Brian Gottfried, Michael Sell and Diego Moyano and you can see why he’s a really, really good kid.
“He’s extremely coachable. He brings different topics to the table, he’s very interested in developing into the best player he can be.”
For a man who serves from the heavens, the sky is the limit.