When Ty Gentry steps foot on campus next fall, he will arrive as one of the more highly-touted recruits in Oregon tennis history.
A senior at Tumwater High School in Washington, Gentry has soared up recruiting boards after capturing the previous two Class 2A Washington state singles titles. He is a five-star recruit and the 21st ranked senior in the nation, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.
He could provide an immediate boost for an Oregon program that already boasts an impressive group of young players, and his big-match experience will be a welcomed addition for the Ducks.
All of that will have to wait, though, until he is done playing basketball.
Although tennis is where his future lies, Gentry will spend the next month leading the Tumwater basketball team in pursuit the first state championship in his school’s history. The T-birds captured their first league and district titles in school history last season, and are among the top teams in state this year after jumping out to a 10-4 start.
“The best part about our group is that we don’t have a huge tradition of playing in the state tournament and final four,” Tumwater basketball coach Thomas Roswell said. “It’s kind of a fun challenge for us to see if we can build that tradition, and Ty’s been a huge part of building that the last couple years.”
Gentry is the engine that makes Tumwater’s offense go. A 6-foot-5 point guard who averages 17 points and five assists per game, he is almost always the most athletic player on the court — whether it be a basketball court or a tennis court. His highlight videos are filled with emphatic breakaway dunks and acrobatic defensive efforts that leave opponents wondering how a player so tall could also move so quickly.
In a day and age in which prep athletes are encouraged to specialize in one sport, tennis demands even more of young athletes. To advance to the top of national ranking boards and earn the publicity required to receive looks from top programs, tennis athletes play grueling year-round schedules and travel around the nation to play in prestigious tournaments.
The fact that Gentry has broken the mold of the “normal” tennis recruit and is not only playing a second sport, but thriving in that sport, is not unprecedented. But it is certainly rare.
“The name that comes to mind is Jordan Spieth the golfer,” Tumwater head tennis coach Jim Click said in a phone interview. “(Spieth) played basketball and golf in high school…The time that (Gentry) commits to both in high school will just help him tremendously when he starts playing year-round tennis.”
For Gentry, he is simply doing what he has always done: play sports. He played every organized sport he possibly could until the seventh grade, when it became apparent he had the talent to play any sport of his choosing at the collegiate level.
“I love both sports and the thing I always tell people is that I’ve had more success with tennis so I’ve always stuck with it,” Gentry said.
Although he decided early on that tennis would be his main focus, he has spent his high school career juggling the frantic schedules of travel tennis and AAU basketball.
He spent the last two years playing playing for AAU affiliate Team Access of Tacoma, Washington, and was obsessive in ensuring this tennis performance didn’t suffer, even when he is on the other side of the country taking part in a basketball tournament.
There are times when he has risen at 4 a.m. to go through a three-hour tennis workout before taking part in a basketball tournament later in the day.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of connections through my tennis coaches,” Gentry said. “So when I would go to these tournaments, I was still able to find kids I can hit with.”
Gentry says multiple basketball coaches have inquired about his interest in playing collegiately, and he always opens with the statement that he is committed to play tennis at the University of Oregon — the school he grew up rooting for.
This spring, he will aim for his third consecutive state tennis title, and next fall he will begin playing tennis year-round for the first time in his life.
Until then, he is simply concerned with making sure Tumwater’s fairytale season lasts as long as possible.
“I hope the end doesn’t come anytime soon,” Gentry said. “I love basketball and I don’t think I’ll stop playing after high school, even if I’m not playing on a competitive level.”
Follow Jarrid on Twitter @jdenney50