A baseball and basketball player all through elementary and middle school, Jeff Stooksbury figured it would be more of the same when he first entered Calumet High School four years ago.
That is, until freshman basketball coach Jerry Tauber saw him.
"I saw he didn't have the height for basketball, even as a freshman," Tauber said. "So I talked to him about trying out for tennis."
Tauber, also the varsity tennis coach, found out that lack of height didn't mean lack of heart.
Now a senior, Stooksbury is 28-3 at the No. 1 singles position for the Warriors over the last year and a half, including a 9-1 record so far this year. His only loss this season came at the hands of USTA-ranked Luke Sanderson of Kankakee Valley.
Not bad for someone who never picked up a racket until he put down that basketball as a freshman and has still never taken a lesson.
"Jeff has a lot of heart out on the court," Tauber said. "He's very competitive and never gives up. Because of that attitude, he's made himself into a very competitive player."
Stooksbury said it's because he found he liked the sport so much.
"I had never played tennis, or even thought about it," Stooksbury said. "But I came out and tried it and found that I really liked the sport. It's a great game. I enjoy the team concept, and I like the fact that I am responsible for my part. It's a great combination."
While the Warriors lost in the sectional finals to Highland last year, Stooksbury won to advance to the individual state tournament. He defeated Lewis Haro from Clark to win the sectional at Highland. At the LaPorte regional he made it to the second round before he lost to Merrillville's Leonard Mathews.
"Getting to participate in the state tournament like that was an incredible experience," Stooksbury said. "I was excited more than nervous. Getting to play some really good competition was a lot of fun and very challenging."
Stooksbury is the team captain this season. He has worked with incoming freshmen this year, helping Tauber teach fundamentals to the newest group of raw recruits.
"He's like having an assistant coach out on the court," Tauber said. "Jeff has a tremendous amount of leadership skills that he uses to make the team better. That's saying a lot."