A bigger and much tougher competition awaits former CNMI top junior player Ji Hoon Heo this season.
Heo will be seeing action in the NCAA Division I on his junior year after transferring from Hawaii Pacific University to Morehead State University in Kentucky. The MSU Eagles are competing in Ohio Valley Conference (OVC).
Joining NCAA Division I games is a dream come true for the 20-year-old player, who had a short vacation on Saipan early this month before leaving for South Korea last week to visit family members.
“I really wanted to transfer to a Division I school after two years with HPU. I knew I wanted to take my tennis to a higher level. HPU has a very high level program and I am glad I was able to hone my skills there for two years and prepare myself for a Division I school like MSU,” said Heo, who received a full scholarship from his new school.
“I knew the MSU coach even before when I was being recruited in my senior year in high school so I contacted him and he offered me a good scholarship,” he added.
Before moving to MSU, Heo had two fruitful years with HPU. He won his first four games of the season and helped the Sea Warriors advance to the 2011 NCAA National Championship in Florida. Heo finished his debut season playing No. 3 in singles and holding an 11-5 record in singles and 9-8 in doubles. In the Nationals, he won both his singles and doubles games. In his sophomore year, Heo also helped the Warriors earn a slot to the Nationals.
“I really love Hawaii. I surfed, I had a lot of fun and it was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make,” Heo said
“My former teammates are really a bunch of great guys and I know they'll do well the next season. I'll definitely miss them and it's always difficult to say goodbye to teammates, especially what you've been through. We worked together, played together, lost together, won together, and within two years, we really became a family,” he added.
Heo is expected to train with his new team early August this year and he hopes to contribute to the Eagles' cause in his first season
“I am hoping to have a dynamic impact at MSU and give a lot more depth to my new team. Obviously our goal would be to win the national championships but first we have to work hard to qualify in the Nationals. I also wish to finish my degree there. I value education just as much as I value tennis,” said Heo, who majored International Studies and Integrated Multimedia at HPU.
Heo added he hopes to see more players from the CNMI and the Pacific compete in collegiate tennis.
“There is a huge talent in the CNMI and the Pacific and I hope to see more players from the Pacific in U.S. colleges. I know they have what it takes to play high-level tennis. I saw it when I watched coach Jeff Race's lessons and hit a little with them. They are great, talented kids,” Heo said.