By the end of his junior high years, Paul Province had played tennis, baseball, basketball and golf.
Of course that wasn’t possible at Blue Springs South High School – basketball being the only non-spring boys sport in Missouri.
Province, who had started playing in tennis tournaments in junior high, saw a glut of classmates trying out for baseball and golf and decided the summer before high school where his focus would be.
"I figured, ‘I’m all right at tennis; I might as well go out for that," he said.
He was all right enough to take fourth place in the Class 2 state singles tournament this spring to close his high school career, and for the second year in a row he is The Examiner Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
After winning in the first two rounds at state, Province said the second day was jitter-free, even though he dropped a 6-1, 6-1 semifinal bout with Rockhurst nemesis Alex Koch and lost 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) to Chaminade’s Trevor Allen in the third-place match.
"It’s what I worked for all year, and I made the most of it," said Province, who also advanced to state in doubles play last year with Alec Barber and helped the Jaguars win team conference and district titles this spring. "It was harder in the first round, and then I won 6-1, 6-1. Knowing I was in the top four, that was a really relaxing feeling.
"I always wanted to do the best I could, but the goal all along was to make the top four, at least. I had a great senior season and a 27-5 record – it’s more than I could’ve asked for."
When Nathan Mooney took over as the coach at Blue Springs South last fall, he realized during his first meeting with the team that he’d inherited a close-knit, clique-free group, "and Paul was right in the middle."
"From a coaching standpoint, the biggest thing was he would listen to you," Mooney said. "He didn’t think, ‘I know better than you.’ When he played, I could visualize me playing and help him."
When Province played, Mooney said his tenacity showed the most.
"His greatest strength is when he had a lead, he kept it," Mooney said, the lone exception coming in his last match at state. "Once he has momentum in a match, he doesn’t lose it."
Province said he usually can rely on his net game to gain an upper hand on opponents, though that certainly wasn’t always his preference.
"My freshman year I hated going to the net; I tried to just play on the baseline," he said. "I’m pretty quick and can jump, and I have good hand-eye coordination. I’m usually serve-and-volley or hitting an approach shot as soon as possible."
Province now takes his game – and what his coach calls an "incredible" work ethic, whether on the court or in workouts or the classroom – to Truman State, which is Mooney’s alma mater.
"He’s super excited to go up there," Mooney said. "The Truman State coach saw him at state and liked what he saw."