BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | SEPTEMBER 10, 2009 7:15 AM
Garrett Dunn has always been the tall kid.
You’ve seen his type —standing in the back middle of the class picture, a head above everyone else. The one with the awkward lean in his neck from craning over friends and feet too big to buy shoes at a traditional footwear store.
Usually, these kids are also the awkward ones who trip over themselves and have difficulty getting around. At 6-8 and 18 years old, one would think Dunn would fall under the “all of the above” category.
But the freshman on the Iowa men’s tennis team is not your average 6-8 athlete.
A four-star recruit according to tennisrecruiting.net, Dunn was recruited heavily out of high school by Michigan State, Penn State, and Arizona before signing with the Hawkeyes.
After spurning the obvious sport for someone with his height — basketball — Dunn fell in love with tennis at a young age and focused on the game all through high school. He never tried another sport except for cross-country during those awkward middle school years, when he went for a trial run.
His height, while a definite oddity on a tennis court, has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
While he’s able to get around the court with relative ease, there are still some hiccups along the way.
“I feel like I’ve really grown into myself as time has gone on,” he said.
That’s saying a lot — Dunn was ranked 115th nationally by tennisrecruiting.net. He must have been able to move pretty well in high school as well, making further improvement a nightmare for opponents.
Of course, being 4 inches taller than his next tallest teammate has its advantages, too.
“In terms of pure reach, I am able to reach for a ball much farther than shorter guys,” Dunn said. “It also helps on my serve and getting certain angles without having to jump.”
While it may look as though he would have the advantage over any opponent he faces, what it really comes down to is preparation and being ready for players on the other side of the net.
That is another way in which he helps his team. While it’s rare to compete against someone his size, the challenge does arise, and no one is more ready for a tall opponent than the Hawkeyes, who practice against Dunn day in and day out.
Senior Patrick Dwyer sees the benefit of practicing against someone who may be similar to a future opponent.
“Guys like that are great at the net,” Dwyer said. “It’s just great for us as a team to be able to compete against a guy like Garrett everyday.”
For now, the freshman giant is focused on getting acclimated to school and a climate that doesn’t stay above 75 degrees year-round.
And of course there’s always those questions in the air.
“Everyone always asks me about my height,” Dunn said. “How tall I am. Do I play basketball. But I don’t care. It’s not a big deal. It’s just part of me.”