Chris Barrus’ life didn’t change much when he moved to Naples, Fla., in 2010.
The former Ocean City High School tennis player just played more tennis.
Barrus, who is ranked fourth in the United States Tennis Association Middle States Boys 18s, will sign a national letter of intent to play at the University of Central Florida in Orlando today.
The 18-year old, who said he received a partial athletic and academic scholarship, will become the second member of his family to play at the Division I level. His older brother, Dan, the 2010 Press Player of the Year and Cape-Atlantic League singles champion, plays for Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
“It feels great,” the Gulf Coast High School senior said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I was just talking to my parents about it the other night. A family is lucky to have one child play at a D-I school.
“And this goes straight to my dad because he’s my tennis coach, but to my mom, too, because she’s always supporting us through everything. It’s good to see that good parenting can push, not only one, but two kids to a Division I school to play a sport that they love.”
Barrus said location was key when making his decision. The four-star recruit, according to tennisrecruiting.net, said Louisville, Tennessee and the University of South Florida were some other schools interested in him. His family, which still has its home in the Marmora section of Upper Township, permanently resides in Naples now. Barrus said UCF is only four hours away.
As a freshman at Ocean City, Barrus advanced to the Round of 16 at the state Individual Tournament, was named a first-team Press All-Star and went undefeated in the regular season at second singles. Barrus (26-2) helped the Red Raiders to their third title of any kind in 27 years, winning the CAL American Conference and Division II. He earned a point for the Red Raiders at second singles in a 3-2 loss to perennial power Moorestown in the South Jersey Group III finals and was runner-up in the CAL Individual Tournament to his older brother.
After Paul Barrus received a job offer in Florida, the father and son made a joint decision to make the move.
“He certainly loved it in New Jersey, but he wanted to give himself the best opportunity to get as good as he could be,” Paul Barrus, tennis director at The Club at Sterling Oaks, said by phone Tuesday. “His game has evolved. He’s improved every year in every aspect. Serving, particularly, is one of his strong points. He’s got amazing hands and sees the ball so early that his return game is unbelievable. He’s always been super strong off the ground, but he’s also improved his forward-court game a bit and his volleys have improved.”
Barrus will join a successful program at UCF. Coach Bobby Cashman has compiled a 156-120 record since 1999 and three NCAA Division I tournament appearances. The Knights, who are known to play one of the toughest schedules in the country, have won three Conference USA titles.
Barrus will compete in the Big East upon his arrival. UCF received an all-sports invitation into the conference for the 2013-2014 season.
“(Playing for UCF) is going to help him get even better,” Paul Barrus said. “He’s going to really take off when he goes away, because when he’s exposed to competition at a higher level, he rises to the occasion.”
Barrus is mostly looking forward to making an impact on the team. He said that Cashman wants him to begin his career in the top, middle tier of the singles ladder.
“I think my game is strong and I think (Cashman) believes the same,” Barrus said. “I think I have a lot of improving to do, but I think I’m well rounded and we both believe the new competition in the Big East is going to suit my game well.”
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