ELKHART — Danny Boussom’s confidence soars even higher than the apex of a service toss by the 6-foot-6 16-year-old.
The blossoming Boussom is intent on playing pro tennis out of high school, while acknowledging that he “might have to settle” for an NCAA Division I full ride for a couple years.
“That’s not terrible,” Boussom said this week, sounding as if he was trying to convince himself more than anybody else. “I know most people would be happy. Going to college for free is pretty good.”
Even Boussom’s dad, Steve, who also happens to be his coach, smiles and slightly rolls his eyes when the subject of his son’s confidence comes up.
Then again, there is cause for that confidence.
The home-schooled Goshen teen, entering his junior year, is ranked No. 1 in Indiana for the Class of 2016 by the Tennis Recruiting Network and rates 62nd nationally.
Boussom’s success has come from a blend of natural talent, constant work — he practices or plays six days a week virtually year-round — and an embracing of the cerebral side to his sport.
Ask him just one thing about strategy, and he exhibits the hyper enthusiasm of someone half his age, while at the same spewing details that sound as if they’re coming from a sage coach twice his age.
Boussom talks about the countless combinations that can evolve during a rally, and how to counter his opponent in each scenario.
“I feel like since I’m doing all this, I can’t let tennis win,” Boussom said. “It’s not just the opponent, but the court, the lines, the ball and my mind.”
Boussom’s mind pulled him toward the sport. As an 8-year-old, he was already pondering whether to pursue tennis, basketball or golf seriously.
“I decided I didn’t want to be relying on other people to win or lose for me. Even LeBron James has to sit out part of a (basketball) game, and even in golf you have a caddy helping you,” Boussom said.
“I like that tennis is challenging both physically and mentally,” he continued. “Other times, I don’t like that it’s so hard and I ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But then I think about how I’d like to make a lot of money, retire and find something that helps other people. Because if God helps me make money doing this, that’s what I want to do with it.”
Boussom, who attends First Baptist Church of Bristol, says his faith in God is what got him through a recent series of setbacks that cost him nearly six months of workouts.
A shoulder injury in December initially led to time off. As he was about to return from that, he developed a sinus infection, then later underwent gall bladder surgery.
“I’m feeling fine now,” said Boussom, who last weekend beat both Indiana’s defending state high school champion and an All-Big East player from Marquette University during a tournament in South Bend.
Weekend tourney play is a regular part of Boussom’s life, while practice flexibility is afforded through being home-schooled by his mom, Melissa.
Tennis was the impetus for Boussom, who lives in the NorthWood district, to be home-schooled.
He sometimes attends area high school basketball games and tennis matches, and says the recent opportunity to participate in a play at Elkhart Christian Academy “was sweet,” but insists he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on the typical high school experience.
“I don’t miss anything because I haven’t really experienced it,” Boussom said, “and I don’t really want to. I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m able to do (in tennis).”
What Boussom’s done in tennis has come with the assistance of many people, whom he eagerly points out by name, but most of all, with the assistance of his father.
Though Steve Boussom runs his own accounting firm, the ex-Elkhart Memorial player also has become his son’s lone regular coach the last couple years, after the family decided to give up their frequent trips to Lakeland Tennis Academy in Niles, Mich.
Danny Boussom and his father point to LTA coach Auggie Guimares and to local individuals Bryan Corbridge, Todd Denton, Tom Snelson, TJ Snelson and Todd Tharp as among those who have helped them along their tennis journey.
While the younger Boussom says that his soaring confidence is part of his game, he also says he tries to bear in mind something Guimares once told him.
“He was like, ‘You are not God’s gift to tennis. Tennis is God’s gift to you,’” Boussom recounted. “He was right, and I have to keep thinking about that.”