Beck is a good bet

Bullis junior has the right stuff to make it to the next level(s)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

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laurie dewitt⁄the gazette
Bullis junior Will Beck is one of the premier players in the area. His coach Jack Schore said: ‘‘He has so many tools in his tool box. And he is learning more and more to make the right choices. ... if he keeps grinding in practice day after day, if he can commit, he is an unlimited player.”

A premier coach, like 16-year Bullis boys tennis coach Jack Schore, knows talent when he comes across it. And when he saw Will Beck training in his juniors program at Bullis more than four years ago, he knew the youngster’s future was bright. Luckily for Schore and the Bulldogs program Beck, now a 17-year-old junior, applied and got into Bullis. The team’s No. 1 singles player for the past three years, he has become a feared player in the Interstate Athletic Conference as well as the entire Mid-Atlantic area.

‘‘When I first started working with him, I learned very quickly that he is in the one percentile of ability to hit the ball,” Schore said. ‘‘I remember I was working with him and he made a major jump in the [United States Tennis Association] rankings. Then one day his dad just came up to me and said, ‘Will applied to Bullis for freshman year.’ ... There are a couple of things that make him such a good player. First, he has really great physical abilities. He has great relaxed ability to hit the ball. He can really just easily make the ball move. And he has a very good mind for the game, as far as strategy. He sees what needs to be done.”

Beck, from Potomac, first took to the courts when he was 8. At 6-foot-3, he’s got the height advantage on his serve. And he has the strong frame to generate power off the ground. But what really makes him fun to watch, what has enabled him to rapidly rise through the USTA ranks, is his versatility. He’s got every shot in the book. And he is learning to implement them more effectively every day. Beck, who is 3-1 this year and finished last year 15-1, is not just a threat at the baseline. He can take the short ball, come to net and be comfortable there. He can volley. He can trick opponents with sneaky drop shots. He can slice and he can add topspin. He’s got the agility and finesse most people of his stature can’t master.

‘‘Say he is at the net and someone hits a shot a million miles per hour at him, he can do whatever he wants with it,” Schore said. ‘‘He can hit the drop shot, he can hit it hard, he can stop it on a dime. And that is a rare thing.”

The Bulldogs’ No. 1 finished 2005 as the second-ranked player in the 16-and-under division of the USTA’s Mid-Atlantic section and is currently No. 8 in the boys 18s. He closed out 2005 ranked No. 98 nationally. Now that he’s moved up an age bracket into the boys 18s, he’s dropped a bit. But he’s already gotten himself to No. 237 of more than 2,000 nationally-ranked athletes. By year’s end Beck hopes to crack the top 200, which at the rate he is improving, is quite a feasible task.

‘‘There are guys who can beat him now, but they can’t come close to doing the things he does,” Schore said. ‘‘Sometimes we’ll see him do things that other players only wished they could do. The best thing about him is his touch. He has tremendous feel for the ball, the angles, the drop shots. His feel is almost as good as any professional player. If he works hard, he can be a world-class player.”

And what makes Beck even more effective on the court, even more feared, is his mental sharpness. He has the physical skills. But he also thrives off competition. He dislikes to lose. And in tennis, mental toughness can be just as crucial as executing the shots.

‘‘I’m a pretty driven kid,” Beck said. ‘‘I like to win. And I absolutely hate losing. Tennis is a huge mental game and I like having to rely on myself. You’re the only one out there. It is just you versus your opponent. And there is so much variety.”

Still in the developmental stage, honing his exceptional skills to perfection, Beck aims to continue improving and climbing the rankings this year as he begins the college process. He is sure to land a spot on a top Division I team. Though it is early, he has already attracted the attention of the University of North Carolina, University of Kentucky and Dartmouth. If Beck keeps working — he spends up to 18 hours on the court each week — Schore has no doubt his young charge will succeed at the next level.

‘‘He has so many tools in his tool box,” Schore said. ‘‘And he is learning more and more to make the right choices. I think he’ll succeed at a Division I school. A major thing with Will is if he keeps grinding in practice day after day, if he can commit, he is an unlimited player.”