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Joel Burkett takes tennis, and his schoolwork, very serious. Photo by Jason Lewis
Burkett has spent many hours on tennis courts, such as the one at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex. Photo by Jason LewisJoel Burkett is multi-talented. He thinks so. His mother says so. Yet the 15-year old tennis player doesn’t let his aptitude get to his head. He’s also a good student, having recently finished his sophomore year at Lou Dantzler Preparatory High School with a 3.08 GPA.As a child Burkett played baseball and basketball. However he didn’t keep much interest in the sports, especially the former. “Back then… I used to play baseball,” Burkett said. “That was not my sport. The sport was too slow. I basically sat on the bench.” At the age of six Burkett began playing tennis after being influenced by his uncle. “My uncle always used to watch tennis, record matches. And I used to see how they played, and then imitate them on the court. Which I think helped me get a little better.” Ever since then Burkett has been honing his skills at courts across Los Angeles. He’s entered several tournaments, and won a few, all the while striving to be the best. He acknowledges his serve as his strength, with his powerful delivery being clocked at 100mph. Because Dantzler High doesn’t have a tennis program, Burkett has played primarily for different parks, including Rancho Cienega Sports Complex and Jim Gilliam Recreation Center. However Burkett and his family will be moving soon, meaning he’ll be attending another school in the fall -- preferably one with a tennis program. “Basically I would like to go to any tennis school and win some championships, and get looked at,” Burkett said. Getting noticed is important to Burkett, as he hopes to earn a scholarship, with his top choices being UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. While in school he'd like to study several subjects, including business and computer programming. Off the court Burkett stays busy as well. He’s currently an intern at The Los Angeles Sentinel, and next month will begin taking two courses at Santa Monica College. Part of Burkett’s success stems from his competitive nature, a trait he sees in his favorite professional tennis player. “Rafael Nadal is very competitive, he’s always strong-willed. He has determination. That kind of inspires me to do better.” Although Burkett could use his athleticism to excel in several different sports, he says that whatever high school he attends next, he’ll be focused strictly on tennis. “I’m basically focused on tennis, because I would like to get a scholarship… and have coaches look at my game.”
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