Any Duke student will tell you how great the East coast is, but for Duke men’s tennis recruiting, the West coast has been the best coast.
In November, head coach Ramsey Smith and his team officially welcomed TJ Pura to the Blue Devils. Players and coaches alike are looking forward to working with the Pacific Palisades, Calif. talent during the 2013-14 season.
The blue chip recruit—who is currently ranked the No. 20 recruit in the nation by Tennis Recruiting Network—was also weighing offers from UCLA, Southern California, Harvard and Stanford, but ultimately chose Duke for its exceptional tennis program and its academic rigor.
“Duke is the best combination of tennis and academics,” Pura said. “It will allow me to study at a really high level and pursue tennis at a really high level as well.”
His personal coach Hugo Armando—a former professional tennis player—believes that Pura will be an asset for Duke, both on and off the court. He is confident that Pura’s maturity will carry him to a successful college tennis career.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Armando said. “I think he’s going to be a good fit, and I think the team is going to be much better for having him there.”
But Pura’s discipline is not all that he has to offer. Armando has described Pura as a fiery competitor, saying his love for the game has awarded him much personal success. But Pura insists that his main goal will be to help out the team and the school.
“TJ has had success at all levels of junior tennis, and he is going to be a shot of adrenaline to our program,” Smith said. “He is a great athlete with solid fundamentals and an all-court game.”
On court success has given Pura the confidence to compete at the highest level and has never been a problem on the court. But he is anxious about being so far from home for the first time.
Joining long-time friend Jason Tahir on the team should help ease Pura’s transition to college and to Duke tennis.
The two grew up playing tennis together in New York, and Tahir’s encouragement ultimately helped Pura make his final decision to come to Duke.
“He was always telling me about Duke and to keep it in mind and as time went on, I realized how right he was,” Pura said.
Aside from intellectual aptitude and a sound game style, Smith looks for hard working individuals with strong character and leadership ability. Both Smith and assistant coach Jonathan Stokke noticed something special about Pura.
“I can’t tell you how many other coaches and parents have congratulated me on getting an amazing kid and player in TJ,” Smith said. “He has great energy and enthusiasm for tennis, but also for life.”
Pura agrees that his up-beat attitude will be his most important contribution to the team.
“This is so special to me,” Pura said. “I’ve never been happier in my life.”