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Morris signs to play tennis at King
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Claudia Morris (front row, middle) signed a letter of intent on Thursday to play tennis at King University in Bristol, Tenn., an NCAA Division II tennis program. Morris, a senior at Bassett High School, was the Bengals’ No. 1 player last season and the Piedmont District’s runner-up as a junior. Joining Morris for her signing are: (back row, from left) Bassett Principal Garrett Dillard; Assistant Principal and Athletics Director Ron Proffitt; girls tennis coach Jennifer Wade; boys tennis coach Brad Whiting; (front row, from left) Morris’ mother, Patricia Morris; and her father, Donnie Morris. (Bulletin photo by Mark Thompson)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

By MARK THOMPSON - Bulletin Sports Editor

Claudia Morris was the No. 9 girls tennis player at Bassett High School her sophomore year.

After the season ended, Morris told her mother, Patricia Morris, that she would be No. 1 by the time her junior season rolled around.

“And she did what it took to be No. 1,” Patricia Morris said.

Morris played tennis every day, even practicing in temperatures reaching into the 100s.

Now a senior, the team’s No. 1 option and the 2012 Piedmont District runner-up, Morris signed a letter of intent Thursday to play tennis at King University in Bristol, Tenn., an NCAA Division II tennis program.

“She really has put in the time, and she has a great work ethic,” Bassett girls tennis coach Jennifer Wade said. “... I don’t think there’s a day she doesn’t have that racket in her hand. That says a lot when you had never picked up a racket before. She really has worked hard.”

Morris didn’t start playing tennis until she was a freshman at Bassett. She was cut from the team that year and finally made it as a sophomore after taking lessons from Wade.

After Morris took lessons with Wade and worked some with boys tennis coach Brad Whiting, she began to work with Chatmoss Country Club’s Cordie Burnett.

“I could just tell that she really wanted to go further,” Wade said.

So the coach set up Morris with former professional player George Kriek of Mount Airy, N.C.

In April, Morris won the 18-and-younger Piedmont Indoor Tennis Championships in Greensboro, N.C. She won her semifinal match 6-2, 6-3, then rolled to a 6-0, 6-2 win in the championship match.

“She’s kind of just taking it upon herself to find her own game, and I’m sure she pulls things from all the instructors she’s had,” Wade said.

Although, despite the instructors she has worked with, Wade said Morris’ success is directly attributable to her work ethic.

“It is (rare) nowadays. Most of these girls who come have never played tennis until their 9th grade year,” Wade said, adding that it’s been since 2005 that she has coached a player who made the same improvement Morris has in high school. “It’s rare to find a girl that is going to come out and in four years get a scholarship.”

Morris first learned about King University during a college fair at Bassett High School. She talked with a representative, then checked out the school’s tennis program online and got in touch with King’s coach Kethan Darbar.

King University’s student body numbers are just more than 2,000 students, not much larger than Bassett High School, whose enrollment is 1,220.

“It’s really small. It’s really nice,” Claudia Morris said.

“I’ve always wanted to go to a small college. I could never see myself going to like Virginia Tech with all the people.”

Morris still has her senior season at Bassett in the spring, but there’s no doubt she’s got King on her mind.

“I’m really excited,” Morris said. “I can’t wait.”

Claudia Morris is the daughter of Patricia and Donnie Morris of Bassett. She is the granddaughter of Cordelia Phillips of Martinsville and Christine Fain and Reginald Hairston of Bassett.

In addition to tennis, Claudia Morris has been an active participant in basketball, dance, voice and piano lessons, ACE Academy, Beta Club, National Honor Society and church activities.

She maintains a 4.0 grade point average (GPA).


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