EAST LANSING – When Harry Jadun hits the road to recruit for Michigan State’s men’s tennis program, he presents prospects for a bright future. In that sense, he’s a bit like being a hopeful Silicon Valley tycoon.
“We talk a lot about creating your own legacy,” said Jadun, a former Spartan player entering his first season as head coach after five years as assistant coach Gene Orlando. “It’s almost like when you work for a startup instead of a corporation. You could go work for Google. But we’re a startup. Our goal is to be like Google in five or 10 years, whenever.”
As it is, there isn’t much of a positive track record for Jadun to sell down the draft path. The Spartans have made it to the NCAA Tournament only once (2013). They will enter the upcoming season 200 games under .500 (221-421) in Big Ten competition. And MSU has just two league titles, both of which are ancient history for today’s players, the first in 1951 and the most recent in 1967.
However, none of that deterred Ozan Colak and David Saye. The pair form a two-man signing class that ranks as the best in the show’s history. When TennisRecruiting.net published its winter ranking of the best classes in the country, the Spartans were ranked fifth. Previously, Michigan State’s top-ranked class was ranked 25th, courtesy of their 2017 haul that featured a trio of five-star prospects (John Carlin, Josh Mukherjee and Davis Wong) and one four-star recruit (Jack Winkler). .
Yet even that star-studded class isn’t up to par, on paper, this year.
So how did a program not known for excellence in tennis get one of the most hyped classes in the country?
Construction schedule ‘resonated’ with the five-star duo
Jadun said his message to Colak and Saye was simple: come to the state of Michigan and become the catalyst for transformation.
“We’re looking for that type of player, and I think that resonated with both of us,” Jadun said. “They were really looking for that challenge. And I think when you join a program that’s historically the best in the nation or the best in the Big 10, there’s a different kind of pressure on you to maintain that. For certain players, that can be a challenge.” well, other players don’t. But I feel like here, you can really build this up, and every win that we get is going to be very, very rewarding and push us forward.”
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Colak, an Okemos native and the crown jewel of the class, could have signed with just about any school in the country. And he pretty much avoided all those offers to turn pro. Ultimately, he decided to stay home and play for college, and the coach he grew up with.
The fact that MSU is not a national power, or even a Big Ten, only added to his interest.
“That was a big part of it,” said Colak, who TennisRecruiting.net selected the No. 7 male tennis player in the country for the class of 2022. “I think to be able to have this opportunity is just amazing. And to be able to have that opportunity at home It’s even better. I just want to move the program forward as much as I can, because I’m rooting for Michigan State and the Spartans.” for the rest of my life.”
Saye, a five-star prospect, hails from North Carolina. His family bleeds Duke blue. And in their first phone conversation with Jadun, the pair trash-talked each other’s schools, joking about the MSU-Duke men’s basketball rivalry. In the midst of the affable discussion, Saye felt him forge a bond.
“On that first call, I could definitely feel the chemistry,” he said. “Obviously Harry is a great coach and I felt a connection with him. I kept talking to him a lot. With each call the connection progressed.”
He visited East Lansing last summer. She loved everything about the trip: the school, the campus, the team, the culture. Immediately, Saye said, she knew “that’s where she wanted to be.” He was ready to commit by the time he got home. His parents kept him waiting, to make sure he thought through all of his options.
But it was never in doubt that it would end in green and white.
As with Colak, Saye was inspired by the opportunity to help the Spartans rise through the ranks of the Big Ten and the nation.
“A lot of the other programs I talked to, I felt like they didn’t really want me to come in and make a difference. They were just giving me a spot on their team,” said Saye, the No. 47 prospect in TennisRecruiting.net’s 2022 Rankings. “That’s not really what I was looking for. I wanted to go to a place where I could go in and build a program and make a difference right away.”
Colak ‘all in’ at Jadun, MSU
A player of Colak’s caliber is not short of suitors. As such, Jadun admitted that if he ever felt like the Spartans were in the driver’s seat over Colak’s commitment, he “was kidding myself.”
But Jadun and MSU clawed and clawed at Colak, expecting him to turn down the chance to turn pro, before he signed his letter of intent earlier this month.
“When he got engaged and signed, it was definitely a huge rush,” Jadun said. “But there have definitely been recruits in the past who have been from the area and gone in a different direction and those always hurt. So we have to put a fence around Michigan, and especially West Michigan, and really mark our territory.” and keep those great players at home.
Colak was almost the next to go. Before retiring from Orlando, Jadun had accepted an assistant coaching position at Illinois. After that happened, Colak admitted that he “wasn’t sure about the state of Michigan anymore.”
“But when he came back as head coach, I was totally in,” Colak said. “We’re doing something special at Michigan State. I’m excited to be a part of it. Harry as head coach is going to be great.”
Jadun is eager for Colak to take the pitch.
“As a former student-athlete here, it’s great that someone who grew up in the area is coming to Michigan State,” Jadun said, “because there’s that connection where they grew up.”
Which became another recruiting angle.
“(I told him), ‘Hey, the next kid that grows up in a position like you around here, you’re going to have an even bigger impact because you’re going to be a much better player than I am. And hopefully we’re contending for the Big Ten championships and all those good things that come with it,'” Jadun said. “So there’s a huge platform for Ozan here, whereas if you go to a different show, you don’t have those ties and your impact isn’t as big.”
‘It feeds me’
With the best recruiting class in history coming to town for their debut season at the helm, Jadun is aware that outside expectations can be difficult to temper. He welcomes you.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself,” he said. “That was part of the reason I feel like we signed this great recruiting class: Because I really wanted to prove a lot of people wrong and said, ‘Hey, you can’t do this or that at Michigan State.’ So I think that feeds me more than it pushes me.”
As talented as Colak and Saye are, Jadun noted that college tennis “is a different beast.” They are both used to playing junior tennis, where it’s all about the individual. Now, they will join a team and represent a university. While Jadun believes the freshman duo can be successful from day 1, he didn’t want to make any wild predictions either.
“I really want them to come here, get better every day, 1% every day, and by the end of their freshman year, they’ll be in a good place,” he said. “By the end of the second year, they will be in a better one.”
Colak said he is aware of the expectations as the most respected signatory in the show’s history.
“I think with the personality that I have and just being the person that I am, I think Michigan State will have some fun times and I’ll be a part of that,” he said. “I really want to change the whole atmosphere around Michigan State tennis. I want to be a part of the whole transformation of the program. I don’t think (the hype around me) bothers me at all. If anything, it feeds me.”
Saye said he hopes the class of top five the Spartans signed this year will be “the start of many great classes to come.”
That’s why, unlike some trainers, Jadun will quote the top five rankings to anyone who will listen, especially potential recruits.
“We want to bring in world-class tennis players, and then we want to develop them to become professional players, and if we have the No. 5 recruiting class in the country, that’s great,” Jadun said. “I really think ranking is huge, because drafting is a momentum game and perceptions do matter.”
For now, Jadun and the Spartans will bask in the glory of being in the top five. However, that will not be the case forever.
If Jadun gets his way, he will have a limited lifespan.
“We don’t want to qualify our recruiting classes down the road,” he said. “We want to qualify them on the way out.”
Contact Ryan Black at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RyanABlack.