Photo: Kristen Smith
Freshman Grant Tesmer is one of two new additions to the Drake men’s tennis squad that dominated the Missouri Valley Conference last year en route to an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Fortunately for Drake and head coach Evan Austin, this Lincoln, Neb., athlete may be one of the Midwest’s most underrated players.
Tesmer spent his summer competing in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Summer Circuit, where many Division I players and recruits hone their skills in the offseason.
Although the Drake freshman had always played rather well in previous summer tournaments, he hadn’t consistently dominated draws the way he did a month ago.
In July he posted wins over opponents from Big Ten schools Illinois and Indiana while reaching the finals of tournaments held at Wichita State, and then won the event at Kansas.
Tesmer’s only loss in July came at the hands of Texas A&M recruit Jackson Withrow. Tesmer went toe to toe with Withrow throughout the entire match but eventually lost in the third set super-tiebreaker.
The most impressive thing about that match isn’t that Withrow is ranked as the 17th best junior player in the nation, but that he will be competing in the main draw of the men’s doubles at the U.S. Open, one of the four biggest tournaments in all of professional tennis.
With results like these, one may wonder why Tesmer wasn’t receiving scholarship offers from the power conference teams. Fortunately for Drake, many of the bigger schools skipped over him because for five months of the year Tesmer’s tennis schedule was virtually empty.
This wasn’t because he simply grew tired of tennis, but because Tesmer was a two-sport athlete at Lincoln Southeast High School.
The Lincoln Southeast standout had been a multi-sport athlete since he was a kid growing up in Colorado Springs, Colo. It was at the Colorado Springs Country Club where Grant first picked up a racquet.
“I didn’t really choose the sport,” Tesmer said. “It just came to me because my older brothers and sister played a lot.”
When he was seven Tesmer and his family moved to Nebraska, and it was at the Nebraska Tennis Academy where he honed his talents. When it came time to choose between tennis and basketball, the choice was clear. Tesmer chose tennis because he enjoyed having to prove himself individually on the court.
“I like to have the pressure on me and to be a clutch player,” he said. “And I’m 6-foot-1 with my shoes on, so I wasn’t going anywhere in basketball.”
Austin believes that larger schools passed over Tesmer because of his basketball career.
“I felt like he was very under the radar because he was playing basketball as well so his tournament experience was limited,” Austin said.
Tesmer was one of the first prospects Austin went after once he arrived at Drake, but it was Tesmer who initiated the relationship.
After making an impromptu stop at Drake on his way back home from a tournament, Tesmer emailed Austin to see if any spots were available on the roster. After speaking with him on the phone, Austin decided to meet with Tesmer in person.
“I made a day trip over to Nebraska to watch him practice and meet with him and his dad,” Austin said. “The things that impressed me the most were his intensity and athleticism.”
Austin believes that Tesmer can become a similar player to Drake junior James McKie. Like McKie, Tesmer positions himself at the baseline and grinds players down with his athleticism.
Now that he can focus all year on tennis instead of splitting time with basketball, Austin believes that Tesmer can become an even better player.
“I think as his game develops he will play an aggressive baseline style of play where he can use his quickness to move forward and finish points, similar to James’ style,” he said.
Tesmer and the rest of the Bulldog squad are preparing for their first tournament of the fall, the Purdue Fall Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind. The tournament is from Sept. 16-18. Drake’s first home contest is on Sept. 23 during the Drake Fall Invitational, where Tesmer and fellow freshman Alen Salibasic will make their debuts.
Upcoming Fall Schedule
Purdue Fall Invitational
West Lafayette, Ind.
Drake Fall Invitational
Roger Knapp Tennis Center
Des Moines, Iowa