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#STINGDAILY: Bringing An Open Mind

Sept. 23, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Before you make any heavy assumptions about Casey Kay, the Georgia Tech sophomore tennis player who after all had the gumption to begin his college career at Georgia, cut him some slack. He’s brought an open mind to the Flats, and deserves as much.

Growing up mostly in Alpharetta, Kay long wanted to go to Athens because, well, just because. And yet when the time came to make a choice, Tech wedged into the picture.

“It was pretty much between Georgia, Georgia Tech and Duke,” Kay said of his original college decision. “I just kind of grew up with it the school I wanted to go to. I was good friends with a couple guys on the team. One of them, Austin Smith, lives five minutes from my house. It was close between all three of those schools.”

So away Kay went. He graduated early (he was home schooled), and redshirted in the spring of 2012, and then began playing that fall. After building an 8-7 record last autumn, however, the spring didn’t go as he would have liked. So, up came Tech … this time all alone.

“Once spring started [at Georgia] I didn’t really know where I’d be in the lineup. I wasn’t really getting to play a lot,” he said. “I wasn’t really getting to play a lot of matches so I decided to see if there were still some other schools that were interested.”

That process had to follow procedures. After securing clearance from Georgia coaches and the athletic department to communicate with coaches at other schools, Kay really only pursued one: Tech.

He called head coach Kenny Thorne, and that went well in several ways.

“It was pretty much just here,” Kay said. “With the Hope Scholarship, and Kenny had some scholarship available it was a really good option financially, and Kenny seemed really excited about me coming here. He seemed to think I could really I help the team.”

He already has.

Kay won three matches two weeks ago to reach the quarterfinals of his flight in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships. There, he fell to Vanderbilt’s Suresh Eswaran.

Funny how things work. His first time representing the Yellow Jackets, Kay found himself playing at Georgia.

“I talked to the head and assistant coach before the tournament started, and I saw my old teammates,” he said. “Everything was a smooth transition. It was a good experience there, but it wasn’t working out.”

It’s working out at Tech, where Kay didn’t exactly arrive to a roster full of strangers.

Vikram Hundal also is from Alpharetta, and he’s known Nathan Rakitt for years. They’ve been pretty successful doubles partners, in fact.

There will be more of a family feeling in the fall, too. Kay grew up training chiefly with his twin sister, Whitney, who plays at North Carolina, a younger brother and their father. Fred Kay, a college swimmer at Kansas.

“I have a younger brother, Michael, who is a senior in high school,” Kay said. “It’s been kind of weird since [Whitney and Casey] started college. We actually grew up training together: me, Whitney, Michael and my dad. He’s been our main coach. My parents are going to come to a lot of matches.”

Kay’s open-minded approach has him already feeling at home.

“I knew school was supposed to be more difficult h ere, but it’s quite a bit more difficult. It’s going well, but it’s definitely a lot more hours studying,” said the management major. “And I wasn’t so sure about living in the downtown area at first, but I really like it.

“The campus, I didn’t really think it was much of a campus but after going to class and being here, I really like it. That bridge [Fifth Street] that crosses the interstate, you don’t even know you’re going over the interstate. That’s neat, and the business school is really new and nice.”

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