Best of Both Worlds

May 19, 2008

The decision-making process on which college to choose for any high school student is a difficult one. For prospective student-athletes, the decision is even tougher because of the pressure to attend a university with a great academic reputation and superb athletics program.

For Blaze Schwartz, that choice was fortunately UCF.

"I looked at UCF, Elon, Jacksonville and Clemson," said Schwartz. "At the end, it came down to Clemson and here. It was a hard decision, but I ended up choosing here and I'm glad I did it cause I like it."

Teammate and hometown friend Brock Sakey aided in Schwartz's decision to come to school in Orlando.

"Knowing someone down here really helped too. He told me about the coaches and how everyone gets along."

Schwartz is a freshman on the UCF men's tennis team, but he is far from being just another athlete. Tabbed as the 2006 Pensacola News-Journal Boys Tennis Athlete of the Year, he finished high school with a perfect 4.0 GPA and in the top 10 of his class at Washington High School.

However, the transition from high school to college was not as easy as Schwartz thought imagined.

"The first semester was real hard because we had workouts in the morning and after that you're real tired and you don't want to go to class," said Schwartz. "I ended up doing well and I just used my time wisely. When I could study, I studied. After practice, I had study hall hours so I work that in too. It worked out better than I thought."

Yet, the Pensacola native continued his impressive strides in academics and tennis in his first semester at UCF. He finished the fall with a 3.714 GPA and made the Dean's List. Schwartz also posted a 6-2 record in the fall and won a doubles championship with Sinan Sudas at the Seminole Invitational.

Had it not been for Sakey and tough competition that he faced before attending UCF, Schwartz might not be at the level he's at now.

"I didn't only play high school tennis. I also played the junior tournaments, like the USTA events," said Schwartz. "That got me ready. Since Brock is from my home city, I got to hit with him a lot and that really helped me. There were some other college players in the area that I got to hit with and that prepared me."

Heading into the spring season, Schwartz appeared to have at the least, a doubles spot secured in the lineup. Unfortunately, during a practice prior to the beginning of the season, Schwartz injured his ankle, missing nearly the first half of the season.

Schwartz admitted that the two-month period was a difficult one between going to rehab three days a week and still attending classes. On March 5, he made his first appearance of the spring against Georgia State, prevailing at court six, 6-1, 6-3.

At just 5-foot-10, Schwartz knows not many of his wins will come because of his size, so he has relied on his strengths.

"I think I'm pretty smart on the court," said Schwartz. "I can't overpower anyone so I have to do some things and use some different tactics. My serve is not that big so I'm going to have to play longer points. I just work on getting in better shape than anyone else."

While Schwartz dominates mentally on the court, he hopes to continue to prevail academically in the classroom.

- Ira Green

This story appears in the April edition of KnightVision. Produced 10 times per year, KnightVision is the official publication of UCF Athletics. Each issue includes stories about UCF teams, student-athletes and coaches. To order 10 exciting issues from August through June, call 1-888-877-4373 (ext. 121) or 336-768-3400 (ext. 121).