Calvin Davis has been in the tennis game a long time. He knows the sport inside and out and has coached some of the most proficient players in the game including former Country Day star and current UNC coach Tripp Phillips and four-star Virginia Tech recruit and current Myers Park standout Katherine Butler among others. And Davis has the numbers to prove his teaching prowess –in his 23 years as Charlotte Country Day’s boys and girls coach, Davis has won over 600 matches and claimed 29 combined state championships – and he’s not looking to slow down anytime soon.
So it’s easy to see why former Vanderbilt tennis star Joel Turner approached Davis four years ago in hopes he’d take on his son, Will, then a freshman at Country Day for private lessons.
Turner had grown up playing the sport with his farther serving as his coach, but once his budding talent developed into something noticeably special, his father knew Davis could help turn him into a Division-I recruit.
“Like so many parents, Will’s dad was very involved with Will’s tennis career early on,” Davis said. “I remember when his parents came up to me and said, ‘We really think that Will would like to play in college. Can you help us?’ I knew it was something I wanted to do. His father made a tough decision to take a step back, especially since he played tennis in college, and let me take control.
“Sometimes, as a parent, you have to trust someone else to take the reigns. At the time, Will didn’t know whether or not he could play collegiately so we started on the pathway to find out.”
That pathway led Turner to one of the most successful high school careers in Country Day history.
Turner’s freshman year, after beginning private lessons with Davis and competing twice a month in tournaments across the country, he lined up at Court No. 5 for Country Day and only dropped one match the entire season, helping lead the Bucs to a 2011 state title.
Competing on the same team as UNC recruit Andrew Gores, Turner gained a new perspective of what playing at the collegiate level could look like. And at just 15 years old, he began to see firsthand the dedication and determination that it would take to compete at that level.
“My freshman year, I played with Andrew a lot,” Turner said. “He pushed me and started to show me what it took to play in college at that level. I realized that he was playing with a purpose and with Andrew and Coach Davis pushing me, I started to see that this was something I could do. As a freshman, I didn’t know if that was possible.”
After Gores graduated in 2011, Turner came back as a sophomore more determined than ever to follow in his father’s footsteps and play in college. That season competing at Line 3, he didn’t drop a single game and college coaches began to take notice. With Davis continuing to develop Turner’s potential, the duo spent the summer traveling to tournaments and touring some of the top collegiate programs.
“For the next two years, Will started to work really hard after he got an idea of what playing at that level looked like,” Davis said. “He started to believe that this was something he could do and he started chasing that dream.”
“We were going nonstop,” Turner said. “Calvin is big on tournament play so I spent every other weekend traveling. It’s not fun at times – I’ve stayed at over 300 hotels and we’d be driving at 4:00 in the morning – the commitment has been huge. But it’s so worth it.”
Last season, Turner lined up at the prestigious No. 1 position and went undefeated in the regular season before dropping only his second match of his career in playoffs. Three matches into his senior season this year, Turner’s still competing at Line 1 and hasn’t come close to dropping another
“I look back on when Will came to me in ninth grade,” Calvin said. “He’s definitely matured. There’s a reason why he’s captain on this team. Not only is he an incredible athlete, but he has great leadership abilities. He’s taken it upon himself to organize the younger players on this team and to represent to the older guys what leadership and dedication looks like.”
Turner’s dedication to tennis – and Davis’ investment in him – paid off in a big way. The once hesitant freshman developed into an all-state selection and four-star recruit who grabbed the attention of Boston College coach Scott Wilkins. Ultimately, Turner decided to sign with the acclaimed Eagle program, achieving a dream he once didn’t think possible.
“I look back on my freshman year and laugh because I wasn’t that good,” Turner said. “I didn’t really know all the effort it would take to get me here, but it’s paid off. I’m really excited about Boston College and the people in my life that have helped me get here.”
“I’m so excited for Will,” Davis said. “I’m always excited to think that maybe I had an important part of helping a young person realize something that they wouldn’t have ordinarily done or realized.”
With his future as an Eagle set, Turner can dedicate his attention to the Country Day team where he hopes to go out in fashion – by winning another N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association team championship.
From the way the Bucs have started their season, it’s a goal that looks attainable.
Not only do the Bucs return the majority of their roster intact from last year’s 10-5 season, but they have two nationally-ranked transfers coming in from Minnesota in junior Evan Cater at Line 3 and four-star sophomore recruit Kavir Kumar at Line 2. Not to mention Naveen Paul, Chris Dumais and Spencer Lackey all returning from last season, leading Davis to say it’s one of the most talented teams to come through the school in a
“As a coach, I’m a little superstitious,” Davis said. “I don’t want to brag too soon. I believe that every day you have to show up and work hard to get the results. But I would have to give these young men credit. They’ve worked hard to get to where they are and we’re starting to see that pay off. This is one of the best teams we’ve had in the last 10 years and the talent is six or seven deep. We’re very excited.”
Three matches into the season and the Bucs have started off 2014 on fire, winning 9-0 over Camden Military Academy, 7-2 over Marvin Ridge and 9-0 over Cuthbertson.
“I think that hopefully we’ll win it again this year,” Turner said. “I think we could. We’re a special team and a lot like that 2011 team. Right now, winning states is what I care most about. I’d love to go out with that.”