White's early jump from high school to Hawkeye tennis proves successful


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The average high-school student normally starts thinking about which college to attend in the fall or winter of her or his senior year and normally comes to a decision late in the winter or early spring.

This wasn’t the case for current Iowa men’s tennis junior, Joey White.

White made the decision in the beginning of the winter of his senior year to relinquish his final semester at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids to enroll at the UI in the spring of 2010.

“I talked about it with my family and coach [head coach Steve Houghton]” White said. “It seemed like a good way to improve my tennis and help my academics progress quicker than if I had waited and stayed for my last semester of high school.”

Houghton agreed that it was a good move to join Iowa while the rather than play for Kennedy in the spring.

“A semester of work here would advance him further, faster,” Houghton said. “He’s probably a semester ahead of where he would have been otherwise.”

White was the Mississippi Valley Player of the Year as a junior and led Kennedy to a state title. He was ranked as high as No. 16 in the U.S. Tennis Association Missouri Valley 18s when being recruited. White attracted attention from the likes of DePaul, Butler, and Xavier, but UI was the only university that leaving high school early was an option.

“It helped me come into the fall [season] and be better. High-school tennis in Iowa isn’t as strong as other states,” White said. “I wouldn’t get as much practice and competition if I wasn’t here at Iowa.”

White redshirted when he first came to the UI, but he was still able to participate in practice with the team during the Big Ten season. He said that the experience of being on an NCAA team made a difference in his development as a player, but also helped him adjust to college life.

That extra time spent with the team is beginning to pay off. This year, White has accumulated four wins in single’s tournament play— more than he had his previous two seasons at Iowa combined. He has also notched two doubles wins thus far, giving him six total on the year— a number good enough to be tied for the team lead in overall wins.

“One of his weaknesses has been his backhand, but I think he’s gotten that corralled to the point where he’s pretty confident with that now,” Houghton said. “He’s become a good all-around player. Before he was a little bit one-dimensional and didn’t have an identity with his game. Now he has a good sense of how to play strategically.”

His confidence on the court has rubbed off on one of his teammates and doubles partners, junior Chase Tomlins.

“In our doubles matches he looks confident,” Tomlins said. “It helps me as his partner.”

White’s improvement in confidence on the court and overall refined play, Houghton expects White to emerge as a standout this fall.

“I think he’s matured a lot over the years,” Houghton said. “You never know when someone is going to take a big jump. He seems to be taking a pretty big one right now.”

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