More teaching at 'Center' of Menís Tennis in 2007
Michael Center, who is in his seventh season of guiding the men's tennis fortunes at The University of Texas, earned his bachelor's degree in broadcast management when he also starred for the University of Kansas tennis team in the mid-1980s.
This season, Center acknowledges that the communication skills he learned while pursuing that degree at KU have served him in good stead thus far this season, as he integrates four freshmen, one redshirt freshman, and a sophomore transfer into the mix.
Jon Wiegand, Rook Schellenberg, Josh Zavala and Dimitar Kutrovsky are Center's 'Fab Four' freshmen -- three Texans and an Eastern European.
There is but one senior on UT's 11-man roster.
Center enjoyed his best year ever with the Longhorns in 2006, finishing 26-4 and reaching the NCAA final four before losing to eventual National Champion Pepperdine in the semifinals. The 26 victories were the most in a season in Center's 15-year coaching career and were the most for the Longhorns since 1997.
"We've played really well this year," said the UT coach, whose team enjoyed a ranking in the top 20 as the 2007 season headed into its second half.
"We've added several new players into the lineup," Center continued. "We have traveled a great deal through the fall and into the first of the year and we have faced a demanding schedule. We have faced three top-25 teams. We took on Michigan there and played them well. Then we went to Tulsa, which has its best team ever, and we won there.
"We're learning and we're competing. The effort and the attitude are there. I have felt that all along this season."
Center and assistant coach Ricardo Rubio didn't hesitate to credit former UT star Roger Gubser for his work with the team this season. Gubser, the team captain who completed his eligibility last spring, is the Longhorns' volunteer assistant this season.
"When I look at them, I see a part of myself not that long ago," Gubser said. "They need to learn how to preserve their individual uniqueness and tie it into a team unit. I know what senior leadership meant to me when I got to Texas and that is what I have tried to give to them."
Center offers kudos to Gubser by saying, "Roger means a great deal to us."
The UT head coach also notes that this team this season has found him teaching more and being more attuned to them physically and emotionally.
"In Chicago (ITA National Team Indoor Championships in mid-February), when we were playing back-to-back matches, the guys really gave me everything they had," Center recalled. "What I had to be sure of was that they were not spent emotionally and physically. With a veteran team like last year, I could sense from body language how they were doing.
"I could look at Roger, for instance, and tell where he was because I knew him. I'm still learning about our new guys."
Center admitted that he was not sure what to expect of his team the remainder of the season.
"I just want to make sure that we are improving every day," he said. "The wins come from getting better each day. If you can do that, the results will be there. We are giving the effort, but we'll learn as we go along about poise and mental toughness.
"They are positive and they are working hard. I know they want to add to the great Texas tradition."