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The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Harrison O'Keefe's decision to move to Hilton Head Island, S.C., has paid off.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Harrison O'Keefe's decision to spend the past two years of high school at Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head, S.C., has paid dividends in more ways than one.
The Salem resident's game has benefitted. O'Keefe is ranked No. 27 nationally in boys 18-under singles by Tennis Recruiting Network following some impressive results in USTA and ITF tournaments.
His college future has been secured, too. O'Keefe has made a commitment to accept a partial scholarship offer from South Carolina, choosing the Gamecocks over Virginia Tech.
O'Keefe, who still has one more year of academic work before entering college in the class of 2014, said the offer from South Carolina coach Josh Goffi was too good to pass up.
"I can't say exactly what it is, but it is a very good offer," O'Keefe said. "He didn't really say the offer wouldn't be there if I waited, but they are recruiting a lot of good players, and I wanted to make sure I was one of them.
"It was a very hard decision between them and Virginia Tech."
O'Keefe played No. 3 singles as a freshman on Salem's 2011 VHSL Group AA championship team, winning all his matches 6-0, 6-0 except for one 6-0, 6-1 victory. O'Keefe played behind his older brother Patrick, who won four Group AA singles titles.
He elected to attend Smith Stearns, living during the school year in a condominium with his mother, former Roanoke teaching professional Chris O'Keefe.
Harrison O'Keefe's daily regimen includes a tennis workout from 8 to 10 a.m., individual academic work on a computer from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., followed by more tennis from 3 to 6 p.m.
"The schoolwork is really hard," he said. "It takes a lot of discipline. A lot of days I'll be sitting at my computer and I'll look out the window and think this would be a nice time to play tennis or go fishing."
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound O'Keefe said his game has improved several notches during his stay in the Palmetto State. In the last six months he has won a singles title in a USTA regional event in Mobile, Ala., reached the quarterfinals in an ITF event in Boca Raton, Fla., and won three Mid-Atlantic Section L1 singles titles.
"I've been playing very well," O'Keefe said. "I have weapon now. My forehand and serve have gotten a lot better."
Now that he has made his college choice, O'Keefe said he is not sure whether he will return to Smith Stearns for another year.
If not, "I would probably just come back to Salem and finish school," he said.
If that happens, O'Keefe said he might play tennis for the Spartans, rejoining current Salem standout Michael Drougas for their senior seasons.
"I probably would," O'Keefe said. "We started together, we could finish together."
Prince still hoping to remain on track
Patrick Henry two-sport star David Prince, who finished third in Group AAA in the long jump last spring, hopes to participate in just his third track and field meet of the year Saturday in the James Earl Jones Invitational at PH.
Prince, a Virginia Tech football signee, jumped 23 feet, 6 inches earlier this season. He fouled on his only jump last week in the Cosmopolitan Invitational and suffered a minor injury on the attempt, PH track coach Chad Cox said.
Prince plans to compete in Wednesday's Western Valley District meet at William Fleming.
Complicating matters for the postseason is the fact that this year's Group AAA meet begins on the same Friday that PH and Fleming are scheduled to hold graduation.
Some PH and Fleming seniors might have to decide between competing in a state meet or putting on a cap and gown.
"It's a mess," Fleming boys coach Rudy Dillard said. "Right now, I don't know what to say.
"For some of these kids, it could be an opportunity to get noticed. There will be a lot of [college] coaches there. But it's graduation. These kids have been going to school for 12 years. I'm not going to tell a kid he can't go to graduation."
Covington football standout Troy Helton plans to play next year at Ferrum College, Cougars head coach Rod Tenney said.
Helton rushed for more than 5,000 yards in his four-year career at Covington. Tenney said the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Helton still needs to take an ACT exam, which is scheduled on the same day as the Group A state track and field meet.
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