Iowa tennis's 'Birdman' finds a new nest


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Brian Alden transferred to Iowa last fall in search of new beginnings. It marked the second time he switched schools during his college career. His previous stops at Illinois and Florida State didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons, including a lack of team chemistry and coaching issues.

Alden contemplated giving up college tennis until Iowa men’s tennis coach Steve Houghton presented him with one last opportunity.

“I knew a friend on Iowa’s team and Coach Houghton, because he recruited me really hard out of high school,” Alden said. “I sent him a quick email, and he explained to me that the team was struggling, and I could help out even if I sat out a year.”

The Barrington, Ill., native decided to give tennis one last shot with the Hawkeyes. The move proved to be beneficial for both Alden and the Iowa men’s tennis program, which seems to provide a better atmosphere for the redshirt junior.

“I love the university; it’s a good fit for me,” he said. “It has definitely been my favorite school out of the three I’ve attended. The team is close. We are a fun group of guys who like to joke around, and we are willing to help each other out.”

Alden’s teammates and coaches jokingly refer to him as “The Birdman.” The nickname originated from his basketball-playing days, when Chris “Birdman” Anderson was the 6-6 redshirt junior’s favorite player on the Denver Nuggets.

Alden has also been a positive influence around his teammates off the court this year. He’s served as a mentor for his younger teammates by giving them advice and sharing some of his experience from playing in big matches against nationally ranked opponents.

“He’s really hard-working and always shows up ready to play,” sophomore Matt Hagan said. “Alden is an amazing doubles player, so he gives me a lot of pointers. He pushes me because both of us have similar styles of play. We feed off of each other. We help each other and push one another toward reaching our goals.”

Alden could bring some firepower to the Hawkeyes lineup next season. The Laurel Springs product was a coveted five-star recruit out of high school. Houghton thinks the redshirt junior could be a difference maker in the Black and Gold lineup next year with his aggressive style of play and high energy level.

“I would project him to be in the singles and doubles lineup,” Houghton said. “He’ll be a major contributor for us next season. Anything is possible for a player like Brian.”

Next year is a make-or-break season for Alden — it will be his last year of eligibility to compete in college.

“For me, I have to pick off where I left off and get my confidence back,” Alden said. “I feel like I can compete with anyone in the Big Ten when I’m playing well. I’m looking forward to competing and getting Iowa back on track. I have one year to prove myself, so I’m pretty determined.”

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