Justin Friesen has been rewarded for years of hard work on the court and in the classroom.
The Kamloops Tennis Centre product will play for Holy Cross College at Notre Dame on an academic scholarship worth about US$22,000.
Friesen, a South Kamloops secondary student who turns 18 in October, will begin toiling for the Saints in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics ranks and studying at the private Indiana school in August, providing COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed by then.
With four offers on the table, Friesen had options, eventually choosing Holy Cross over Adrian College in Michigan, Eastern Nazarene College in Boston and Wabash College in Indiana.
“Academics has always been my focus, even though I always do put a lot of time and effort into tennis,” said Friesen, a sciences-minded student who plans to enrol in pre-medicine courses at Holy Cross.
“In elementary school, I had a lot of trouble focusing. I was like a B or C student, with the occasional A. My grades have been getting better ever since and, in Grade 10, 11 and, so far in Grade 12, as well, I’ve got nothing but straight As. It’s been tough, at times, but overall I’m very happy with how much I’ve improved.”
Kelly Hubbard, head coach and tennis director for the KTC, has been working with Friesen for about eight years.
He spoke with a Saints’ representative during the scouting process and touted Friesen’s dedication to school and tennis.
“Everything from his values, his habits, work ethic, all that stuff, and they make a decision on whether he’ll fit in well with the team and the school,” Hubbard said. “They don’t want a player who’s very good academically, but individualistic or doesn’t fit in with the team, or the opposite.”
Deborah Veitch, a family friend and tennis consultant, was influential in advertising Friesen south of the border, according to the Saints' signee, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 165 pounds.
Friesen aims to return to Canada for medical school after studying at Holy Cross, a college of about 500 students that neighbours Notre Dame University.
Cheap Fighting Irish tickets, a team trip to Florida and complimentary tennis equipment are included in Friesen’s perks.
Hubbard said Thomas Friesen, two years younger than brother Justin, and Paige Grice, who will be in Grade 12 next year, are among KTC juniors with potential to nab post-secondary scholarships in the next few years.