..arguably the best recruiting class in the nation

"Boise State beats NCAA tennis powerhouse, UCLA." That was the 1997 sports headline shocker. Greg Patton had done the next to the impossible. Big time college tennis is played in California, Texas, and Florida, not Idaho. He had taken a tired tennis program, from an almost unknown mid-major university, located in a state many Americans confuse with Iowa, and turned it into a national power.

At one time the 1997 Bronco Men's team was ranked #2 in the nation. UCLA wasn't the only major victory that year. Greg's guys also thumped Texas Tech, Illinois, Mississippi, Washington, Clemson, Auburn, and Miami. The Broncos finished the year #5.

Well Kitty bar the door! Next years Bronco team, and the two or three after that, have the potential to be better than the 1997 bunch. In fact they just might be the best in the history of the program.

First, we can't talk about the team without talking about a great coach, Greg Patton.

During his tenor as a collegiate head coach, his teams won fifteen championships in three conferences, were ranked in the top twenty-five ten times, and he himself was voted NCAA "Coach of the Year" in 1987 while coaching at UC Irvine, and again in 1997 at Boise State. His overall record is 523 -254. At Boise State he is 172-59.

After seven conference championships in eight years at Boise State, he left to join the US National Tennis Team. He coached for them from 1998-2003.

In winter of 2002-03, he led the national boys 14's team to a World Cup Championship, beating teams from Spain and Argentina to take the title. Some of his junior players have gone on to achieve world professional rankings. Five became household words. Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, David Wheaton and Malavai Washington.

Coach Patton left the National Team and returned to Boise State in March of 2003. It didn't take him long to work his magic again. Boise was struggling in mid-season with a 5-5 record. He took them on a 13-1 run, entered the WAC Championship Tournament, stunned Tulsa, Rice, and SMU, won the WAC trophy, then upset Arizona in the NCAA only to lose in a close match in the round of 32 to California. His guys ended the season #34 in the nation.

In 2004 the team was ranked as high as #30 and posted an impressive 24-8 record. In February, after winning the regional ITA / USTA Indoor Tennis Championship, Boise traveled to the University of Washington and played in the round of sixteen losing in close matches to Kentucky, Baylor, and Washington.

Boise State senior Guillaume Bouvier, ranked #55 in the nation, went on to compete in the NCAA Singles Championships. He reached the round of sixteen, losing to fifth ranked Phillip King of Duke 7-5 6-4. Reaching the round of 16 gave Bouvier All-American honors. Bouvier is the first Bronco singles player and the fifth Bronco overall to reach All-American status in tennis.

Bronco Country caught up with Coach Patton and asked him to talk about the future of Boise State Tennis.

BC - To begin with Coach, how did your recruiting season go?
- I have had some pretty good recruiting years during my 25 years of collegiate coaching, but there is no doubt that we struck gold this year. It is undoubtedly the finest recruiting crop in my career.

BC - Can you tell us what the big difference is?
– Well, I beat the bushes pretty hard recruiting, and am overjoyed that I brought the whole tree down on this one. It's as though I have the prom queen, the homecoming queen, and the class valedictorian all going to the prom with me.

BC - You got three new players rated four and five stars. Who are they?
- The players are Luke Shields from Grand Junction, Colorado, Eric Roberson from Sacramento, California, and Brent Werbeck from Austin, Texas.

BC - How does the class compare to the likes of UCLA, California, and Stanford?
College Tennis Online, which is the top collegiate tennis journal, stated that we have the arguably the best recruiting class in the nation. All three recruits bring great things to Boise State, and our realistic quest to win a NCAA Team Championship.

BC - Wow! That's a big time quest. Are these kids that good?
- They, by nature of their success in junior tennis, bring extensive competitive experience to our team. They all have achieved at the highest level of American tennis. They all have won Junior National Championships and they are all Americans. One of my goals was to bring in the finest American players.

They all have won sportsmanship awards. They are not only exceptional tennis athletes, but also carry themselves on the courts with exemplary behavior which the university and community can be proud of.

They are all extremely popular amongst their peers. There is no doubt in my mind that their very presence in our program will expose Boise State Tennis to the elite junior tennis players in the nation.

BC - Which player stands out in the class?
- Luke. He is undoubtedly the finest tennis player whom I have had the privilege to bring into one of my programs. Over the past four years he has been one of the top American players in the United States. He not only has dominated American Junior tennis, but also has had incredible success on the professional circuit playing as an amateur.

He was heavily recruited by the major tennis powers. He will make a dramatic impact on our tennis program which returns four of the top 6 players from our 24-8 team last year.

The icing on the cake for Boise State was signing Eric Roberson and Brent Werbeck. Both are exceptionally talented players. They both have been ranked in the top 25 in American Junior Tennis. They bring a depth to Boise State tennis more valuable then a gold mine in South Africa.

BC - What about the overall balance of next years team?
- With the returning players that we have and the addition of three major recruits, we are set up on making a big impact on collegiate tennis. There is no question that we will have probably one of the deepest teams in the nation. Also, a major factor that people don't recognize is the incredible leadership that we receive from Beck Roghaar. He represents Boise State with the WAC. And was also the WAC representative to the NCAA.

It is going to be a toss up on who plays where. Every player in our program knows that they have to step it up. I have 10 outstanding and exceptional players vying for six singles spots. The competition will be fierce, but it is a problem that I LOVE to have.

The teams that win the NCAA Championships have to dominate at the #4, #5, and #6 spot. That is where I think we are going to be very solid next season.

BC - You place an emphasis on more than playing tennis for your guys. What do you mean?
- I want my student athletes to have the most positive, learning life experience that anyone would ever dream of. I want to help them grow and improve as human beings, excel in the classroom and receive a college degree, and to touch the very highest peak of collegiate tennis. I want them to reach their goals and achieve their dreams.

BC - Goals for the next few years?
- Winning the WAC, being top ten in the nation, and becoming the first Boise State team to win a Division I NCAA Team Championship.

I am in some pretty huge company with Hawk, Greg Graham, Greg Randall, Sam Sandmire, Mike Maynard, and the rest of our fantastic coaches at Boise State, so I am jamming fast to get it done.

BC - Are you excited about 2004-2005?
- I can't wait. This is the year that we are getting the Bronco tennis machine in high gear. By 2007 my goal is to make an onslaught for the National Team Championship. Our players will have matured and received the experience necessary to become national champions.

Bronco Country wouldn't be a bit surprised to see that National Championship sooner than 2007.

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