Tennis lands international recruits

Eight Owls from seven countries play for men’s tennis.

When most college players get recruited, the coach comes to see them play, and the players go to see the campus before committing.

Freshman Hicham Belkssir was recruited based on a YouTube video.

“I just sent an email [to Temple] with my rankings,” Belkssir, a native of Rabat, Morocco, said. “And, of course, a YouTube video.”

As informal as that may sound, it has worked out well. Men’s tennis coach Steve Mauro offered Belkssir a scholarship after seeing the email, and has called Belkssir “one of the most talented players on the team.”

There are a total of 22 NCAA student-athletes at Temple that are not from the U.S. The men’s tennis team has eight of those, representing seven countries and four continents.

“I know a lot of coaches throughout the country and the world,” Mauro said. “They contact me or I’ll call them, and they’ll put me in touch with a good player.”

The technique seems to be working. The team has started off the 2013 season with two wins, including a down-to-the-wire victory on Feb. 2 against Richmond – a team with no foreign players.

One of the most common ways that players are found internationally are through agencies. These agencies scour youth tournaments for viable talent who want to get a college degree, and then send the information to NCAA coaches looking for recruits. If the coach is interested, he or she gets in contact with the player. That’s how sophomore Kristian Marquart came to Philadelphia from Munich, Germany.

“I put in my videos and results, and coaches see them,” Marquart said. “That should be enough to make a good recruitment. I don’t know of a lot of coaches who go [around the world]. That’s why the results are there and we play tournaments.”

Some coaches are able to travel internationally to scout, but Mauro said he’s not one of them.

“We just don’t have it in our budget to do that,” he said.

The opportunity to play tennis is not the only reason these players come to Temple.

“My major is finance and economics,” freshman Sam Rundle said. “I want to keep doing my education and the academics are really good here.”

Rundle, who is from Perth, Australia, joined the team this semester and has been in the United States for two weeks. Neither Rundle nor Belkssir, a finance major, had been to Philadelphia before moving into Temple, but they both had been to other parts of the country before.

When asked why he chose Temple, Marquart cited the Fox School of Business, even above the tennis program.

“Temple is known for [its] good business school, and I am studying international business,” Marquart said. “That was the main reason. Also, the team was pretty good. They were always playing for the A-10 championships. Those were the two reasons: the business school, and the team.”

Six of the student-athletes on the men’s tennis team are studying in Fox, while sophomore Hernan Vasconez – from Ambato, Ecuador – and freshman Santiago Canete – from Madrid, Spain – are majoring in some form of engineering.

While the team may have an unusual makeup by Temple standards, it is not so unusual among its peers.

In the 14-team Atlantic 10 Conference, nine schools have four or more foreign players on their team, and only two – Richmond and La Salle – do not have any. George Washington has the most, with nine, but Temple is the only team that has no American players – with the possible exception of Virginia Commonwealth University, who does not list the hometown of one of its players.

Ultimately, Mauro doesn’t care where his players come from, as long as they are well-rounded.

“I just look for the best players, academically and athletically,” Mauro said.

Evan Cross can be reached at or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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