A Houston High School senior will have his college bill paid for thanks to the game of tennis.

Isaiah Buse recently signed paperwork to attend William Woods University in Fulton on a tennis scholarship.

Buse took up tennis about three years ago and last spring was Houston’s No. 1 singles player during a season in which the Tigers won the Class 1 District 9 championship. He realized as a sophomore that he wanted to pursue the sport beyond high school.

“Because I enjoyed it so much,” Buse said. “I really love playing.”

The William Woods Owls play in a combined tennis league made up of teams from the NAIA’s American Midwest and Heartland conferences. The men’s squad is currently ranked ninth in the nation in NAIA tennis.

“We’re looking to build on that,” said first-year head coach Chance Joost. “There are some high expectations.”

Joost also leads the women’s tennis team at William Woods. He said identifying a kid worthy of receiving scholarship is based on several factors.

“There’s a lot of vetting,” he said, “but you’re definitely trying to find kids who fit the culture you’re trying to build.”

At William Woods, that culture includes good grades. Buse’s SAT scores bode well for that quest.

“We’re trying to get our team GPA to be the best in the conference, and hopefully in the country,” Joost said, “and Isaiah will definitely help with that.”

Joost also looks to increase the homegrown talent at a school with a major international presence.

“We would like to improve our American to international ratio,” he said. “We have a lot of internationals, so I want to get some Americans on the team.”

Besides grades and nationality, Joost obviously hunts for good tennis players on the recruiting trail.

“We want hard-working kids who have played multiple sports, are athletic and have high ceilings,” he said, “and Isaiah fits that pretty well.”

Buse said the mental side of tennis is what draws him to the sport.

“It’s always a chess match,” he said, “and it’s always a different chess match with all the angles and all the places you can take a ball.”

Buse will likely pursue a double major in digital media communications and business administration. He plays both singles and doubles, and said he loves both.

“Sometimes I prefer to play doubles because of my background in team sports,” Buse said. “It’s always nice to have someone else on the court with you.”

Joost said he has about 12 players on each team, and that the men’s squad will soon go through a major transition.

“I’m glad to have Isaiah as part of my first recruiting class,” he said. “We have seven seniors leaving, so he and the other newcomers have a big void to fill.”

Isaiah hits

HHS senior Isaiah Buse hits a forehand shot during the 2018 season in which he helped lead the Tigers to a district championship.

As a senior, Buse will compete with the Tigers under a new head coach, as Loran Richardson will take over for John Jordan, who is retiring after 18 years at the helm. Houston figures to be tough to deal with again.

“Despite losing our coach, we’re returning all six of our varsity players,” Buse said, “so I expect us to be serious contenders early in the team state tournament this year. As for myself, now that I have experience with postseason play, I expect to be more prepared mentally as well as physically to make a run in the individual state tournament. Hopefully, my doubles partner, Kyler Ramsey, will be in good condition to make a deep run as well.”

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