The unbreakable bond between the ASU men's tennis coach and his first recruit

Matt Hill and freshman Benjamin Hannestad have a long history

When ASU men’s tennis coach Matt Hill chose to rebuild ASU’s program, he left behind his team at University of South Florida. Hill worked hard to keep his team and recent recruiting class intact, which included current Sun Devil freshman Benjamin Hannestad. 

To Hannestad, there was an instant connection when they first met, and he couldn't imagine playing for anybody else.

"I would say he’s much more of a second parent,” Hannestad said. “He cares about me a lot. I care about him. We talk about everything from school to personal issues to whatever. He’s always there for me, and he knows I’m always there for him.”

The bond between Hill and Hannestad began years before Hannestad was recruited to USF. Hill got in contact with Hannestad's whole family when he met with them to discuss the possibility of recruiting Hannestad’s older brother, Jonathon. 

Although Jonathon chose to attend a different university, the relationship between Hill and the Hannestad family had already begun to form, and Benjamin was determined to play collegiate tennis for Hill.

“I’ve seen what he’s been doing with his programs. They aren’t like top ranked, but how the players are evolving is a big deal for me,” Hannestad said. “Also, I felt I had more of a connection with him on a personal level than other coaches who are more trying to just recruit you because you are good, not that they care about you. Matt's always been a really genuine guy who cared a lot about me. It drew me to him.”

But then, Hannestad’s goal of playing for Hill was put on pause when he announced his departure from USF. 

“Basically, the whole reason I went there was because of Matt,” Hannestad said. “So when I heard he was leaving, I was devastated. I didn’t know what he was going to do as his next project, so I didn’t know if I could follow.”

Not only was Hannestad upset, but so was the majority of the USF recruiting class. When Hill recruits players for his team, he works hard to develop strong relationships with them. 

Hill attempted to keep the whole recruiting class at USF intact, but for Hannestad, there was no other option than to play for Hill.

“He cried. Yeah he was super, super upset,” Hill said. “And then I said 'I want you (Hannestad) to give the new coach at USF a chance,' and he did, and he went through that process with the new coach for a month, and at the end of the month, he said 'I am not going to go to college if I am not playing for you.'”

So, Hannestad became the first official recruit for the ASU men’s tennis team

“The first one, especially when you are starting from scratch, is always going to be the hardest one because he has really nothing to go off of,” said assistant head coach Michal Kokta.

But fortunately for the Sun Devils, Hannestad couldn’t have been more excited to join Hill in Tempe.

“Of course its a privilege to be the first one to start a program. (There are) not many times you can have the honor,” Hannestad said. “Also, I wanted to show some confidence to Matt and loyalty, and I think it payed off. We got a really good team, and our teammates came in pretty quick.”


Reach the reporter at skbrisen@asu.edu or follow @sophiabriseno on Twitter.

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