Jack Barnett leaves it all on the court in his final season

Jack Barnett, one of two seniors on the men’s tennis team this year, is both sad and excited to graduate from BYU and say goodbye to his five-year home.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “I would definitely say that coming through this Big 12 era and the new coaches has been really good this year, so I’m pretty sad to leave, but I’m also pretty happy to leave because I get to start a new chapter of life.”

Before coming to BYU, Barnett played for St. Andrew’s Anglican College in Australia for his first three years of high school and transferred to the Barcelona Academia Sanchez-Casal, a tennis academy in Spain, as a junior. He played there for a year, then transferred to the Academia Sanchez-Casal in Florida to gain more access to college coaches.

In Florida, Barnett caught the eye of former BYU men’s tennis head coach Brad Pearce. He toured the university in early 2019 and officially enrolled later that year.

One of Barnett’s proudest memories is from that first season as a Cougar, in his second ever college match at the ITA Mountain Regional Championships. After advancing to the second round of the tournament, Barnett defeated No. 13 seed Sergiu Bucur from Utah State University, 6-3 6-1.

Despite his strong debut, Barnett faced a challenging first season with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. However, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) compensated athletes affected by the pandemic by giving them an extra year of eligibility.

“[The pandemic] was definitely a bit of a struggle,” Barnett said. “The season got cut short. But on the other end of that, I got back this season, which was so great.”

Barnett improved significantly over the next several seasons. He was named All-WCC First Team Doubles and Second Team Singles in the 2020-21 season and All-WCC Honorable Mention Singles and Second Team Doubles in the 2022-23 season. He also recently defeated No. 50 Tadeas Paroulek from Baylor University on Mar. 30.

Jack Barnett cheers on his teammates in their match vs. Idaho State on Feb. 24, 2024. Photo by Matthew Norton/BYU Photo

In addition to upping his game on the court, Barnett feels he has developed as a person over the past five years. He admitted that not being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and attending BYU has been challenging at times, but overall, he has enjoyed living in Utah and meeting new people.

“I’ve definitely matured a lot,” he said. “My freshman year, I was a really shy guy. I didn’t speak too much to other people outside of the team. Now I’m pretty open. I can have a conversation with anyone. I’m more comfortable in my own skin in a different environment.”

This year, Barnett was the captain of the tennis team and played number two doubles with partner Redd Owen, as well as number one singles. Head coach Zack Warren and assistant coach Jonathan Sanchez are incredibly grateful to Barnett for his leadership on and off the court.

“He poured his whole heart into this program this year,” Warren said. “He is everything you hope a captain would be, mentoring the younger guys and elevating everyone around him.”

Owen feels the same way about Barnett, and he is grateful to have such a talented doubles partner and captain. He joked that Barnett makes him look good in matches because he hits “missiles” across the net that allow Owen to easily finish off the point at the net.

“Jack is honestly an instrument in the Lord’s hands to keep me humble when we play against each other,” Owen said. “He’s so talented, and I’ve never played against a player that’s better than him and who’s more talented than him. I learned humility from him for sure.”

Kobe Tran, the other graduating senior on the team, has a lot of respect for how Barnett has helped the players develop, especially this past season. While Tran was unable to compete due to injuries, he is still grateful to Barnett for fostering a welcoming environment.

“He’s helped not only me because we’re close friends, but he’s helped a lot of people throughout the whole year,” Tran said. “It’s nice to have a positive environment to wake up to in the morning and work out with.”

One of the reasons Barnett has made such a great captain is his ability to relate to and connect with each of the players on the team. Having spent a few years with several of his teammates has given him a perspective and attitude that the first-year coaches don’t yet have.

“He’s great at communicating with the rest of the team,” Sanchez said. “Even though he’s the captain and the number one player on the team, he doesn’t give off an air about him that’s pretentious or a ‘better than you’ personality. He doesn’t have that. He’s very relatable, very down to earth, talks to the guys like equals, and I think that goes a long way motivating the rest of the guys on the team and pushing them to be better.”

Jack Barnett hugs teammate ____ in match vs. Weber State on Feb. 17, 2023. Photo by Nate Edwards/BYU Photo

Because Barnett was able to break out of his shell and connect to his teammates as their captain and friend, he developed several close relationships. Both Owen and Tran formed close bonds with him, one as a doubles partner and the other a fellow senior and non-member, and they’ve learned a lot from how he carries himself.

“The biggest thing I learned from him is just to keep trying,” Tran said. “I think a lot of the times in my life, I kind of want to step back when things get hard, but with him it’s a lot of facing it on the chin and just dealing with it…sticking it out and realizing that it’s going to pay off in the end.”

Because coaches Warren and Sanchez were new this year, they learned just as much from the players as the players learned from them. Barnett was able to give great advice and insight as a long-standing member of the team, which Sanchez hopes will benefit the future of BYU men’s tennis.

“I know him and Coach [Warren] have had a lot of conversations about the team that we would never know if we just came and tried to figure these things out on our own,” Sanchez said. “The communication that Jack has with the coaching staff has been really helpful, giving his opinion on things, on the way things have been in the past and the ways that we can formulate a new plan and philosophy and culture for this team.”

Barnett is marrying his fiancée, Kayla Pexton, in two weeks. He is staying in Utah, is considering playing pro and would love to eventually return to BYU as a volunteer coach.

Barnett’s teammates and coaches are excited for him to start a new phase of life with his soon-to-be wife. Coach Warren is sad to lose two amazing seniors, but he says any success the team has going forward will be their success as well.

“I am very proud of these two individuals, and they should be very proud of themselves,” Warren said. “I’m excited for their next steps and the positive impact they will continue to make on those around them. Look out world: Jack and Kobe are on their way!”

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