COLUMBIA — Hickman tennis player Alex Turner is a Kansas Jayhawks fan.
Turner has grown up in Columbia, but he has been a Jayhawks fan since his sister started rooting for them several years ago.
“Basketball is one of my favorite sports,” Turner said. “I love to play, and I love to watch it. KU basketball: I always love to watch it. I’m always going to be a Jayhawk.”
This isn’t surprising news about the Kewpies senior tennis player. Hickman coach Andy Materer said Turner is a “quirky” guy who is unlike anybody you’ll ever meet.
“He’s different,” Materer said. “He likes KU, listens to country music. He’s his own character. He does things his own way. He’s got good discipline, but he knows how to take care of his own business.”
Turner is also not your typical tennis player. Materer said Turner is one of the few tennis players who can dunk a basketball. He is tall, lanky and is one of the Kewpies’ best servers.
“When he first came out his sophomore year, he won a big match against Helias,” Materer said. “Even when he was a sophomore, he was winning big matches. I liked the way he competed even back as a sophomore. I told him then he had state potential.”
Last season, Turner almost made it to state. At last year's Class 2, District 5 tournament, he and his partner, now-graduated Sang Chung, were one victory away from a spot in the state doubles competition.
Turner kept up with his “quirky” reputation last season by having his own crazy hairstyle week. Turner had a different hairstyle every day at school the week before the district tournament and then cut his hair into a Mohawk for the tournament.
Materer said Turner always comes to compete, which surprises some people because he doesn’t talk very much. He won’t say much before the match, but he get the furrow in his brow, and you can tell he is ready.
“Those sort of things get him psyched up,” Materer said. “He had the Mohawk last year and made the semis at districts. He was the top competitor on that team.”
Turner will team up with fellow senior John Prost at this season's district tournament May 15 at Rock Bridge. Materer has paired them as his No.1 doubles team since the beginning of the season.
Prost has played with Turner all four years at Hickman, and he said it is amazing to see how much Turner has improved.
"His groundstroke has improved, his serve's gotten a lot better. His whole game’s improved," Prost said. "A dramatic improvement from freshman year to senior year. He’s a 10 times better player.”
Turner said it would be the perfect ending if he and Prost did well enough at the district tournament to get a team from Hickman to the state tournament.
“That would definitely be a real accomplishment for our team, and John and I as seniors,” Turner said. “That would be a really nice way to go out.”
Turner has prom the night after the tournament, so don’t expect a Mohawk this year. Turner said he will find another way to get ready for what could be his last matches as a Kewpie. One thing is for certain, though, Turner will find a way to have fun while he’s playing.
“I have different aspects of my life that are definitely not the same as everybody else,” Turner said. “As far as stress situations, I really don’t stress out about things that most people do. I can always kick back and relax and laugh about anything. I like to have fun and not be worried about what people think of me.”