Iowa men's tennis coach adapts to recruiting internationally


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As a state university, the UI has plenty of Iowa students, along with a large contingency from Illinois and across the Midwest. This is not the case for the men’s tennis team.

The Iowa men’s tennis team has one Iowan on the team in Joey White of Cedar Rapids. There’s only one player recruited directly from a bordering state β€” Omaha native Matt Hagan. Brian Alden is from Barrington, Ill., but he transferred from Florida State.

Collectively, the players of the men’s tennis team hail from six states and three countries on three continents. While White grew up 27 miles from Iowa City, teammate Rob Trower grew up 9,487 miles away in Melbourne, Australia.

Head coach Steve Houghton says it’s a process of deciding where to recruit. He said he starts in Iowa and then branches out into the Midwest. From there, the coaching staff looks farther east and west.

“Our choice becomes ‘Bring in a second-tier type of American? Or a guy that’s a little better but an international player,’ ” he said.

One such international player is Jonas Dierckx, a junior from Lommel, Belgium. A lot of times, players have video services create a recruiting film, which is then uploaded onto a tennis recruiting website or sent out to college coaches in the United States.

Houghton is afraid of flying, and Dierckx was unable to make a visit. Houghton did evaluate Dierckx, but he did it in an unorthodox way.

“Coach Houghton made me play with an ex-[Iowa] player,” Dierckx said. “He told Coach I would be a good fit for the team.”

This former Hawkeye was Bart van Monsjou. The native of the Netherlands graduated in 2008, and he gave Houghton the “OK” to pursue Dierckx.“We get some sense of what level the guy is at from a good reference point [in ex-players],” Houghton said.

When players are in town for visits β€” American or international β€” they get firsthand experience with campus life, including Hawkeye football games and living in the dorms.

“A lot of the international students don’t know the first thing about American football,” Houghton said. “Once they get here, they get interested in those sports. They get a sense of the festive atmosphere. It serves a good purpose.”

Arizona native Dominic Patrick is familiar with U.S. football, but he got a special experience at the Northwestern/Iowa game last year.

“We went down on the field,” Patrick said. “You don’t realize how big [the football players] are until you’re actually standing by them. It was pretty cool.”

Rather than stay in a hotel when they come for a visit, tennis recruits stay with a player who is a “host” for the night. With this, they can learn about the campus and dorm life.

“They really get a sense of what dorm life is like,” Houghton said. “It’s a little bit splashier to have someone stay in the Sheraton.”

Houghton said it’s all part of showing a player a part of how he might spend his next four years.

“We try to paint a picture as to what it’s going to be like when they come here,” Houghton said.

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