University City

Love of action leads Duncan to tennis

Marquis Duncan grew up playing basketball, but a new sport has all of his attention now.

He loved the fast-paced action and played basketball whenever he could. Duncan was playing pickup games one day five years ago at the local recreation center when he went outside and looked around back.

"I walked outside and saw a couple of people playing tennis," Duncan said. "I stayed watching and right away I was hooked. I loved how fast it moved.

"There are a lot of similarities between the sports with footwork, changing direction and staying low to the ground. I have always been pretty athletic, so it was an easy transition."

Duncan, who started playing tennis at Vance as a ninth-grader, is now a junior and No. 1 player in singles and doubles for the Cougars. He plays pickup basketball when he can, but tennis is now his main sport.

He is the best player on his team and, in a conference loaded with talent, was named I-Meck 4A all-conference this year.

"It means a lot to me to get recognized as an all-conference player," Duncan said. "It is good to know my hard work is paying off, and that other people see the work that I am putting in."

Next year, he is looking to build on what he started.

"I like to think I have a pretty big game and have a good serve like a lot of other taller players," said Duncan, who is 6 feet 2 and weighs 155 pounds.

"I am tall and lanky and people have been telling me to get to the net more and work on my volleying. That is my main focus this off-season."

Duncan tries to model his game after some of the taller professional players like John Isner and Juan Martin del Potro, taller players who have big serves and great all-around skills.

"I think my height can help me with my power and serves," Duncan said. "I try to pick up what these guys are doing and add little pieces to my game."

Vance finished 5-6 on the year, and had a good season. Next year they want to build on this as the team matures and Duncan adds another year of improvement.

Although not as deep or experienced as other teams in the conference, Cougar head coach Janice Budreau likes the way this team fights and is happy she has Duncan back next year.

"Marquis is a great ambassador for our program," Budreau said. "His biggest attribute is his passion. My team does not come from a tennis hot bed and we pull kids from wherever we can find them and make them tennis players.

"Marquis really helps me with the newer guys and he is always talking it up. He is always positive. He is a pure tennis player, it is his passion."

Duncan is also passionate in the classroom, where he carries a 3.2 overall grade point average, and has improved that to a 4.2 this semester. He works as hard in school as he does on the court.

Duncan said he wants to try to play tennis in college. He is aiming for an athletic scholarship, but is working hard in school to maybe get an academic scholarship and try to walk on somewhere. He is hopeful colleges will begin to look at him for his grades and his tennis.

On the court, Duncan is trying to add a few more shots to his repertoire, but is pleased with how he has progressed.

"I have gotten a lot better since my freshman year," he said. "I broke my wrist going into my freshman year and my form was not very good because of it. Last year I played basketball and when the season ended had only two weeks to get ready. This year I was healthy and able to make a push to get better. I want to continue adding shots and gaining confidence in my game."

If there is a shortfall to his game, it may be the mental part.

"I am working on it, but the mental side is such a big part of the game," he said. "I could get up big early and get out of my game and end up losing a match I should have won. Mental toughness is something I am really working on, staying even when there are highs and lows."

The rest of his game is sound, and with the work he is putting in this off-season, Duncan should again be one of the better players in the conference.

He plans on taking part in as many tournaments as he can and play against as much good competition as he can.

Budreau said she looks forward to seeing the improvements Duncan makes this off season.

"Marquis works hard, get good grades, is at practice every day and he usually stays late," Budreau said. "If his teammates need help, he will do anything he can for them."

"He does all of these things and is a great leader on a team that really needs him."