West signs with Utah State for tennis

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 25, 2013 

Sehome's Avery West had a habit of making things quick on the tennis court.

It should come as no surprise then that the 2012-13 Class 2A boys' tennis singles champion employed that same philosophy when it came to deciding where he would go to college to continue his tennis future.

Last week West signed his national letter of intent to play tennis at Division-I Utah State University in Logan, Utah, which is located 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.

"It was a whole mixture of emotions," West said in a phone interview. "I was just really excited. ... I am in the mix with D-I athletes, knowing that you are going somewhere and all your hard work is going toward something."

West, a senior at Sehome High School, decided to forgo his senior season to spend more time focusing on the intricacies of his game. The decision to leave his teammates was certainly not an easy one, he said, having placed fifth as a freshman, third as a sophomore and then winning the state singles title as a junior.

"I definitely made some huge changes in my game that I wouldn't have been able to make during the high school season," said West, who maintains a strict regimen of playing tennis nearly every day. "I miss it, but I feel that was completely the right decision."

Utah State, although West's final choice, was not his only option. The senior was also drawing significant offers from Seattle University, Lewis & Clark and the University of Portland, but his meeting with the Aggies' coach, Clancy Shields, solidified his already-high regard of the program.

"I had a great vibe from him," said West of Shields, who is entering his first year at the helm of Utah State's program. "He's really intense about tennis, and you can really see that he is ferocious on the court, and I love that because I am like that, too."

Shields, who spent the past four years as an assistant coach at Boise State University, looks to bring new life to a program that has a combined record of 12-29 over the past two seasons. In just early interactions with the first-year coach, West was sold on the direction he was taking the program.

"His overall goal is to make the team like a family, so it's as tight-knit as possible," West said. "He understands all the aspects that go in to becoming a successful collegiate athlete."

For West, deciding on a college early in the signing process was important to him. With tennis being his overarching passion, by choosing Utah State at this early stage is affording him time to not fret over where he is going to go. In other words, tennis is again his main focus with signing out of the way.

"From here, I have something to look forward to and something I am training for," West said.

His specific role on the team is still somewhat an uncertainty, which he expects to be the case until he arrives on campus next fall. But he still contends that even as a freshman, he could crack the top four or five players in the Aggies' rotation.

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports news.

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