Cash Hanzlik was 16 years old and at the top of his tennis game as the No. 2 player in the country when he chose to go to a junior college in Tyler, Texas.
Why? To go pro as soon as possible.
To get there, he tested out of high school at 16 and graduated in 2020. But due to his lack of play, he wasn't recruited by pro agents.
ASU men's tennis head coach Matt Hill called Hanzlik the top recruit for ASU in 2022, and Hill has wanted him to commit since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. So he gave Hanzlik two choices on what to do if he wanted a full-ride scholarship: Either go back to high school for three years or go to a junior college for a year and a half to get an associate's degree.
"The choice was simple, and I chose to go to Tyler on a full scholarship," Hanzlik said.
Hanzlik, who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, quickly became one of the best youth players in the Pacific Northwest at a young age. He caught the eyes of the United States Tennis Association when he was only 14 years old.
"The Pacific Northwest was generally weak for tennis, so once I became one of the best players in my section, the USTA came calling,” Hanzlik said.
The USTA facility in Orlando, Florida, offered Hanzlik to move across the country to pursue tennis and continue his education. In his mind, there was no other option. The answer was an easy yes.
"I moved there alone when I was 14, and I stayed there until I was 17,” Hanzlik said. “It was exactly like college, you just do your school work and then train on campus most of the time."
Hanzlik was fully committed to tennis during his time at UTSA and played in many tournaments around the country. At one tournament, he met freshman Murphy Cassone, and the two clicked instantly.
"We roomed together at multiple tournaments and played a lot of doubles," Cassone said. "We really clicked because of our similar backgrounds, both playing tennis at a high level on our own at a young age."
Hanzlik and Cassone have been best friends since, and the pair have similar goals, including one shared goal of playing at ASU.
"Murphy is one of my closest friends," Hanzlik said. "We have a similar mentality when it comes to tennis, and we basically made the decision to go to college together three years ago. Murphy was one of the biggest factors when deciding to come to ASU."
Hanzlik's family will be coming down to live in Arizona, so they won’t have to go far to support their favorite tennis player.
"My aunt just moved to Tucson; I have another uncle and aunt moving to Phoenix next year," Hanzlik said. "My coach that came to visit ASU with me is opening an academy here in Arizona, everything just worked out well."
While Hanzlik's family moving has seemingly fallen into place, his placement at ASU is no accident.
"We have followed Cash for a long time," Hill said. "He’s always had the game to play at the highest level. ... He’s a special one, not only as a tennis player, but also as a person. He’s really tough and a great competitor."
Vincent Deangelis is a full-time reporter for the sports department at The State Press. He has previously worked for Arizona PBS and AZPreps365.com.