Boise State tennis player Patton relishes his rise

The Boise State junior helps lead his team to the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMay 9, 2014 

Whether it's scaling Idaho's tallest peak solo, skydiving or winning by narrow margins in vital matches, Garrett Patton thrives when living on the edge.

A self-professed "adventure seeker," Patton has a knack for being a closer of sorts for the No. 25 Broncos, who open NCAA Tournament play at 10 a.m. Saturday in Los Angeles against the University of San Diego. Patton has 10 straight singles wins, four coming via third-set tiebreakers, including a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) win April 12 after trailing 5-3 in the third set to clinch a 4-3 Boise State win over San Diego State.

"I'm kind of addicted to it, just the rush of being in those tight matches and getting that last point, having the guys sprint at you. There's no better feeling," Patton said.

Patton, a two-time 5A state champion at Boise High, has 26 singles wins this season, tied for most on the team. He is 23-12 in doubles, and was named All-Mountain West with partner Brendan McClain. The close wins are stressful enough for a coach, but it's an even more tense affair when Patton's coach is his father, Greg.

"When anyone is playing for the match, like he's done a few times, you get nervous. Then when it's your son, it's even worse," Greg Patton said. "But there's no fear with him. He sees those sorts of things as defining moments."

The unique mixture of coach and father has mostly been a boon, but was tested two years ago. In the months after Garrett's freshman season, two alcohol-related incidents in Boise resulted in six misdemeanor charges, two of which were dropped.

"I was devastated," Greg said. "I know he was embarrassed. He got it from everyone - the media, the courts, the school, his coach, his dad. I'm sure he wanted to just go into the wilderness and camp for three months, but he accepted it. I think greatness can come out of suffering."

Garrett did not play in the fall as a sophomore, and performed twice the ordered community service. So often drawn to the edge, Garrett saw himself needing to take a step back.

"I was doing some immature things," Garrett said. "It was a wake-up call. I had thoughts at times of quitting the team, but that would've been the easy way out. I put myself in that position and wanted to work my way out."

The experience made the younger Patton "a lot tougher." He's been a model student, earning Mountain West all-academic honors the past two seasons. It even translated onto the court - "I know I've probably overcome more, put in more work than my opponent," he said.

Simply being in position to play for the Broncos has been cherished, even after he was intrigued by schools like California, San Francisco and UC-Santa Barbara out of high school.

Greg, in his 18th season (1993-98, 2003-present), has photos of his Boise State players holding an infant Garrett, hitting balls with him soon after he was able to walk and serving as scorekeeper as a grade schooler.

"I was born a Bronco, I grew up doing everything but actually playing for Boise State, so to be on the inside is something I always wanted," Garrett said.

No favoritism has been shown toward Garrett, with Greg saying "he got the short end of the stick" early in his Boise State career. Garrett knows he was held to high expectations, but it has in turn made him one of the most coachable players Greg has had, he said.

"I feel more confident in myself than I ever have," Garrett said. "It feels like a dream season."

The feeling is mutual with his father/coach.

"It's bliss - the greatest thing tennis has given me," Greg said. "Having my son play a role on one of the best teams I've had, you just can't beat that."

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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