All In The Family

April 29, 2014

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By Joey Nelson

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - Raised in the less-than-ideal-conditions that can be New Jersey in the wintertime, freshman Chris Barrus never had much of a chance to play tennis year-round. While having to work on his game indoors due to cold weather, Barrus typically had about an hour each day to practice, where his father would serve as head coach to both he and his older brother, Dan.

The Barrus brothers grew up playing at night because their father worked late, yet the two siblings enjoyed that they could learn about the game together and go up against their dad in practice, often times because of their sibling rivalry.

"We could never really play against each other because our tempers kind of clashed, but my dad was always keeping us in check," Barrus explained. "We'd play, normally, just my brother and I versus my dad."

Their dynamic and competitive nature on the court gave the brothers the opportunity to work things out as a team. Dan currently is a senior on the men's tennis team at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia, but the two remain close. By checking in with each other and keeping up with their wins and losses throughout the season, the fight to be the better Barrus thrives across state lines.

After his freshman year at Ocean City High School, the Barrus family packed their bags and moved to warmer weather in Naples, Fla. The Jersey boy who had picked up his first racket at 6 years old was now the new kid on the block at Gulf Coast High School, looking to find his groove and make the right first impression.

"The move was pretty hard. Going to another school was difficult for me, and having to meet new people was hard, but it ended up being a good thing," Barrus said. "I got to play tennis year-round and the weather's nice. It's been fun."

The increased court time allowed Barrus' game to evolve and improve in ways that would have been tough to match up north. The hot days and blue skies seemed to nudge the young tennis player in UCF's direction, with the added training hours playing a big factor in his ultimate decision.

"Once we were in Florida, the goal for me was to play at a Florida school because you can play all year-round," Barrus said. "I picked UCF early on because it was perfect for me. It was pretty close to home, the weather was good and when I came on my visit, I really liked the campus and the kids. The academics are unbelievable too. It just worked perfectly for me."

The jump from New Jersey to Florida eased the transition to UCF because Barrus understood what it took to rebuild and restart. The team aspect gave the young Knight a place he could call home, a family he could move forward with.

Vibrant passion and a lively work ethic had been passed down from his family, values that had been instilled with a humble attitude but still with results in mind.

Barrus' efforts have certainly paid off. The freshman took home the Coach's Award at the 2014 Swords Awards, an annual event which recognizes the accomplishments of student-athletes on and off the field.

"I wasn't expecting it. I thought Kiku (Francesc) Aulina was going to get it because he's really good and has been on top of things. I was just really excited to get it because it means something to me," Barrus said. "Coach [Bobby Cashman] sees that I'm working hard, I'm doing my best for the team. It was really cool."

Barrus continues to develop his game, specifically with fine-tuning by Cashman and the consistent mentoring by fellow Knight and role model Aulina. Both have set the standard and the guidelines for not just being a good tennis player but also a great man.

"UCF's been really good. I've never worked so hard in my life. It's been such a grind but the benefits are so much more," Barrus said. "I feel like I'm growing as a person and on the court I'm getting better. It's been a great experience for me."

To learn more about UCF's Everyday Champions, including how to support the program, click here.



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