Australia-natives and BYU men’s tennis juniors Jake Sullivan and Jeremy Bourgeois are proud to be Cougars and have found success on the team in terms of increased athleticism and personal growth.
Sullivan and Bourgeois knew of each other and played against one another in an Australian tournament before coming to BYU. Although their tennis journeys are different, it didn’t take the two long to become good friends once in Provo. They now live in the same apartment complex and are two of five seniors that will lead the Cougars in 2017.
While Bourgeois grew up in the big city of Sydney, Australia, Sullivan spent most of his early life in a small country town called Grafton.
A passion for tennis runs in the Bourgeois family. His brother Alex plays at Loyola Marymount University and his sister is fielding offers from various schools.
Bourgeois started playing tennis when he was 10-years-old. He was playing in tournaments by the time he was 14-years-old.
On the flip side, Sullivan doesn’t have any family members that play tennis. He first learned how to play from a coaching clinic in his hometown, but he quickly developed a passion for the sport.
The coaches there saw potential in him and encouraged him to take lessons. His love for the sport only grew from there.
“I just fell in love with it,” Sullivan said. “I really enjoyed it. Eventually, I got more and more competitive with it.”
Sullivan and Bourgeois were both very successful throughout their high school careers. Bourgeois was a captain for all four years and led his team to an undefeated season.
“Jeremy is a well-rounded athlete,” Sullivan said. “Obviously he had the tennis ability, but he was also the academic genius.”
Sullivan played at the King’s School, a prestigious boarding school in Sydney. While there he was able to train with some of the top players in the country. He had ranking higher than that of Nick Kyrgios, who is now ranked No. 19 in the world as a pro.
With both having such stellar high-school careers, they each had a number of universities to choose from, but selected BYU for its combination of great academics, quality tennis and cheap tuition.
BYU head coach Brad Pearce said it was an easy recruiting pitch because both Sullivan and Bourgeois were high-character individuals.
“After meeting with Jake and Jeremy on my recruiting trip to Australia in December of 2012 and discussing the uniqueness of BYU and its mission, they were both attracted to this kind of environment,” Pearce said. “They were already living a Mormon-like lifestyle in their own homes. It was a perfect fit and I’m pleased with how they’ve developed as student-athletes and people since they’ve been involved in our program.”
Even though they both ended up being great fits for BYU, they had their share of doubts at first. They knew very little about the LDS faith, but were pleased with BYU’s environment upon arriving.
“I like a lot of things about BYU,” Sullivan said. “The academics are great. The facilities here are incredible. And the tennis program just has a really good history. BYU has been a great experience for me. I wouldn’t change it.”
Bourgeois echoes Sullivan’s sentiments.
“This is the best thing for me, 100 percent,” he said.
Another aspect that has made their BYU experience a quality one is the variety of other cultures that are on the team. There are players from Russia, Mexico, South Africa, Australia and the U.S.
“It’s like a melting pot of cultures” Bourgeois said. “It’s a really fun atmosphere.”
Although, there’s a lot of “banter” that happens on the BYU men’s tennis team, according to Bourgeois, both he and Sullivan have great respect for their teammates and have made life-long friends on the team.
“We’ve got a bit of a brotherhood,” Sullivan said. “We get along well. We all like to joke around with each other a lot, but I think everyone has that really good connection.”
Sullivan and Bourgeois are looking forward to their season as seniors. Both will be taking a full load of economics classes, but are excited about the future of the tennis program.
The Cougars are coming off one of the better seasons in program history last season. BYU went 18-7 overall and finished with a 7-2 mark in the West Coast Conference. The team defeated Pepperdine for the first time in history and also picked up wins over Utah, Boise State, UNLV and Idaho.
Bourgeois is already at work this offseason to improve for 2017. He’s preparing for a tournament in Las Vegas with teammate Keaton Cullimore.
But he said he’s not the only one preparing for next season.
“Everyone is really working hard this offseason so we can have an even better season next year,” Bourgeois said.