At first, Jean Andersen does not seem any different than the other members of the Texas men’s tennis team.
The junior is trying to help lead Texas to another conference championship and another trip to the NCAA Championships this spring. But what sets Andersen apart is the fact that he may have more in common with a member of the men’s golf team than anyone on the tennis team. Andersen, like fellow junior Dylan Frittelli, hales from Pretoria, South Africa, and both are prominent players for each team.
“When I first got here, they were probably expecting a black kid,” Andersen said of his arrival on campus last January, where he helped Texas to win first place in the Big 12 Conference. “They kind of made fun of my accent at first.”
Andersen has gotten support from his teammates early on in his career.
“Obviously, he speaks great English, but he comes up with some ridiculous pronunciations,” said senior Ed Corrie.
Andersen receives encouragement from his teammates while trying to become fully acclimated with a more permanent life here at the University. However, he’s not completely unfamiliar with life here; Andersen used to live in Austin when he was a kid, and his father got his doctorate from UT. But despite his obvious connections, Texas wasn’t Andersen’s first collegiate choice.
“He was actually initially going to go to the University of Illinois, and there were some issues there,” said head coach Michael Center. “We didn’t know Jean really, and we got an e-mail from him that he was looking to go to school. I found out that he had ties to the University of Texas, and it just turned out to be a good fit for both of us.”
Despite almost playing more than 1,000 miles away in Illinois, Andersen has quickly gotten very comfortable and has had little trouble getting settled into his new home here in Austin.
“People here are very similar [to people in South Africa], it makes it pretty easy,” Andersen said.
His whole family still lives in South Africa, but that has not made Andersen feel any unease about getting used to Austin. He’s had a lot of help from friends and coaches to make Austin his new home.
“I never get homesick,” Andersen said. “Sometimes I just want to hang out with friends, but I don’t really feel like I want to go home.”
The fact that the team is so multi-cultural has helped Andersen feel comfortable.
“We’ve got an eclectic group — guys from all over the world,” Center said, referring to a Texas roster that includes players from England, India, Bulgaria, Texas and Colorado. So Andersen being from South Africa doesn’t make him any different from any of the other guys on the team.
“It helps him by being around all the cultural differences,” Corrie said.
When Andersen arrived on campus during the spring semester of last season, he won his very first collegiate match, which would be the first of many wins for him.
“He’s very aggressive at the net. He makes a lot of bold moves on the doubles court,” Corrie said.
Corrie and Andersen began playing together to start this season, and they’ve really started to mesh into an effective duo. His head coach also had some strong adjustments regarding Andersen’s play.
“He’s a super athlete and is an explosive guy,” Center said. “When he puts pressure on you and does it with consistency, he’s really hard to beat.”
Though he’s only been around the program for a few months, he has already made strong impressions with those involved with the program.
”Jean is a very likeable guy, good fun, always very happy and positive, and he’s great to have on the team,” Corrie said.
Andersen knows he plays a key role on the team. But he can still count on his team to keep him grounded with such things as [reminding] him of his African roots, and one particular mistake that Corrie described as the biggest blunder ever.
Regardless of how they’re doing it, his teammates and coaches are making him feel at home, and in return, he will help the Longhorns in what the team hopes to be another successful year.