ASU, AM tangle in Perkins Classic

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 24, 2005

Griffin Pritchard

Selma Times-Journal Sports Editor

Youth in the city of Selma had the opportunity to see collegiate-level tennis on an up-close and personal basis. Alabama State and Alabama A&M our two of the teams that competed in the Fourth Annual Mayor James Perkins Jr., Tennis Classic held in Semla.

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Judson and Tuskeegee were both also invited to attend, but due to scheduling conflicts, they were unable to do so.

The format was set up with each of the teams, who had competed against each three times through out play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, mixing. ASU and A&M players put their rivalry aside and joined forces to entertain the students from the Selma city schools that were in attendance.

“What’s exciting is to walk around town and you see all the tennis courts filled on the weekends,” said James Perkins, Jr., Mayor of Selma. “Kids are out playing tennis. The game has been revived. We have Alabama State and Alabama A&M, two high-powered SWAC conference tennis teams coming back to us each year. It’s a good day to be in the city. It’s a beautiful day.”

As a way to promote tennis in the historic city, Louis Hill was placed as the tennis coordinator for the Selma school system.

“This is the Mayor James Perkins Jr., Tennis Classic where we invite several colleges from around our state to come and put on, what we may call an exhibit of tennis, to entertain our area tennis players whether they may be elementary school age or on the high school level,” said Hill. “It’s not so much on the competitive level. It’s just for fun. We do more fellowshipping and just enjoy the sport of tennis. We intermingle the two schools and even the third if Tuskeegee comes. The talent today we have ASU boys and girls and AA&M boys and girls. Judson was invited to attend, but due to a scheduling conflict they were unable to attend. Their coach called me to apologize for having to back out because they had to play their regional games in another town. We show the kids good calibur tennis coming to our city. The whole things is set to get the kids, families on the court to play tennis.”

Coach, Thomas Colvin from A&M and coach Bernard Sewell from ASU were both excited at the opportunity to come back and participate in this year’s event.

“This is our fourth year coming down here,” said Colvin. “With Mayor Perkins being an A&M graduate and with him trying to improve some of the kids in the communities through tennis, that’s something that we couldn’t turn down.

Doing something for him and something for the kids at the same time, we had to make this trip.”

While Colvin hinted that rivalry between the two schools didn’t extend to the courts, ASU’s Bernard Sewell told a different story.

“This is an excellent event for the kids” said Sewell, who is a Selma native. “It gives the children a chance to see tennis on the collegiate level and also experience some aspects of college. It also gives them an idea of where they need to raise their skill level in order to get a college scholarship and have their college paid for, is priceless. Then for Alabama State and Alabama A&M to come to Selma, this is a big rivalry.”

“These two schools have a good rivalry,” said Sewell. “You think Auburn and Alabama have a rivalry, I have folks in my family from A&M that I don’t care much for in October.

This is a mess man. It’s good for the college kids to fellowship. It’s for the children of Selma to get them in college. That was the Mayor’s original concept in establishing the tennis program.”

Even though their was some good natured ribbing going on about what color some of the kids were going to wear when they graduated, whether it be black and gold or red and white, the focus was still on the children.

“These kids have been playing tennis for about two or three years now and several of them are qualifying in the high school regions and having them to witness them tennis at this level and to know that there are scholarships available for tennis at this level is a big deal. It’s a big deal. If you just think four years ago, tennis was just about dead in our community and now it’s coming back strong. And I think it’s a great investment. Our tennis program is a partnership program between the Selma city schools and the City of Selma and it’s working. I believe that in two or three years, we’ll have students graduating from the Selma school system, graduating and earning scholarships in tennis. We have some kids playing on the 9th and 10th grade level that are very promising.”

So far, Perkins’ efforts to improve the city’s tennis structure is working.

Selma High School will look to continue their season this Thursday and Friday when they travel to Montgomery’s Lagoon Park to compete in the sectional tournament. In that event, the Saints will go head to head with players from Prattville High, Auburn High, Opelika High, Smith’s Station High and Carver High School.