LITTLE ROCK – Benton native Branch Terrell signed a letter of intent to play tennis for the Razorbacks at the University of Arkansas on Friday afternoon at the Arkansas Tennis Association in Little Rock.
Terrell, who has lived in Benton the past two years, never played for the Benton Panthers, but was home schooled, which allowed him the opportunity to travel to tournaments in which he incurred the highest rank in Arkansas several times and is currently ranked the No. 2 player in the state by Tennis Recruiting Network. Terrell is the first player from Arkansas signed by the Razorbacks in four years.
“It didn’t start out for sports,” Terrell said of being home schooled. “It’s very convenient obviously for traveling and being able to do school on the road, but it started out with my parents really just wanting to have a good handle on growing up and wanted to influence our lives in an important way.”
Terrell comes from a family of tennis players as his two brothers, Cameron and Trey, each played collegiate tennis at Ouachita Baptist University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University, respectively. Branch Terrell was also heavily considering OBU as well, but explained his decision to become a Razorback, which Terrell proclaims himself a big Hogs fan.
“Great coach,” Terrell said. “Great organization, program. I’ve worked really hard for a long time and I really want my game to grow. It’s a good level of competition and the program is going in a good direction. Jeff Long has a good handle on athletics and Coach (Andy) Jackson seems like a very good guy. He’s obviously been successful coming from Florida winning SEC Championships. And you can’t beat the Hogs.”
Terrell’s tennis coach of 10 years, Raul Bermudez of the the Bermudez Tennis Academy, said they’ve seen a lot of each other since Branch was 8.
“We’ve spent a lot of time together,” Bermudez said. “I’m proud of him moving up to the next stage. It’s a great accomplishment.
“He’s a very all-court player. He’s a very smart kid. His technique is very fluent allowing him to really adapt to games and players. Hopefully that will allow him to perform well on the college level. Division I is challenging. We’re looking forward for him to adapt to it and it’s a good opportunity for him there.”
But tennis is just a stepping stone for Terrell as he has bigger sights in mind. He plans on becoming a pastor.
“Tennis is very important to me obviously, I love tennis, but my relationship with Jesus Christ is the biggest thing in my life,” Terrell said. “I grew up in a very family-oriented home. Family, school and tennis are very important.”
Terrell also excelled in the classroom, which his academics are also helping toward paying for school.
“They kind of provide the way to get scholarship money, its part with tennis,” Terrell said. “I’d like to get out of college debt-free. I don’t know what that’s looking like right now, but its a big deal mainly because I’m going in the ministry and when I come out I might be in the mission field and its hard to make money when you’re doing a public service. Paying off student loans might not be the easiest thing in the world.”
Terrell received the Dr. Ted Bailey Sportsmanship Award, an award given to one boy and one girl tennis player in the state which displays extraordinary character and sportsmanship, two years in a row. He also traveled to the Dominican Republic for 10 days to serve the underprivileged. Though he still hasn’t decided on a major at Arkansas, Terrell said he may go into business, communications or computer science.
“I’d really like to go into a field that will prepare me to provide for a family or contribute to a community outside of the U.S. there will be a lot of cultures that accept me for a skill that I might offer more so than the Gospel, even though the Gospel was the reason I was there.”