Clarksville, Ark.-The sophomore combination of Bishop Bass and Todd Turner fueled the University of the Ozarks men's tennis program to new heights in 2013 and has quickly built Head Coach Shaun Wiseman?s team into a regionally recognized program.
Behind Bass and Turner, Ozarks posted a program-best 14-2 overall record and the team received the program’s first ever regional ranking (No. 16) from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. As freshmen, the duo led the team to its first winning record in nearly a decade. Wiseman credits the duo’s competitive spirit for elevating his program into new territory.
“They push each other in practice,” said Wiseman. “I knew they would come in and make us better, but I didn’t think they would take us to this level so quick. The chemistry between the two is great and everyone feeds off of it. Our team is better because of their competitiveness.”
On the court, Wiseman describes his stars as very different players.
“From a playing style, they are very different,” said Wiseman. “Bishop is more of an offensive baseliner who likes to come forward, while Todd is a great defensive baseline guy who has just above average speed. Todd is more creative and more of an artist. Bishop is more of a grinder. Their personalities match that as well. Todd displays a more quiet intensity. Bishop is the opposite, he is loud when he wins a big point.”
Turner, a native of Pearcy, Ark., plays No. 1 singles and has accumulated 21 career singles wins and made Honorable Mention All-Conference in doubles last season. Bass, a native of Greenwood, Ark., plays No. 2 singles and can claim 26 career wins. Bass won ASC Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-Conference honors in singles a year ago. As doubles partners, the duo has posted an impressive 25 career wins. And, the pair is on the verge of being regionally-ranked from the ITA in doubles.
“They complement each other really well on the court,” said Wiseman. “Each should be considered for conference Player of the Year honors, but I am only allowed to nominate one. I wish I could nominate them for everything, but that is not the way it is done.”
Wiseman describes the competition among the two as “friendly”, and that competition has extended beyond the courts.
“Everything is a friendly competition now,” said Wiseman. “They compete with each other in the classroom, too. They both want to see the other succeed.”
Wiseman recognizes that both are more than just good tennis players. Bass and Turner are members of the American Southwest Conference All-Academic Team and have been named ITA Scholar-Athletes the past two years. Bass is a management/administration major, while Turner prefers biology.
“I love the fact that they are great tennis players, but I can’t tell you how excited I am about their academic successes,” said Wiseman. “They both have impressive grade point averages in tough majors. They would rather be studying than on the social scene. They possess a lot of internal motivation.”
While the competition may be friendly, the pair has had plenty of intense matches during practice.
“The intensity dials up in practice when they play a match against each other,” said Wiseman. “And, it is almost the same script every time. Whoever wins the first set loses the second set, and then they play a full third or a ten-point tie breaker and it is really close. The match is heated and takes forever. They are very, very close in ability. I give the slight nod to Todd in singles because he is a little more creative on the bigger points. And in doubles, I give the edge to Bishop because he has better hands and a better all-around feel for playing doubles.”
While the two could be satisfied with what they have accomplished thus far, Wiseman appreciates the attitude the pair displayed following the season.
“After the last match they both said they have a lot of work to do over the summer,” he said. “They want to prepare and concentrate on next season. I expect them to continue to grow. They are great friends. And that has made them so much better.”