When he was about 10 years old, Michigan senior Harrison Brown began playing at a tennis center called Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. For two years he stayed there, training three hours in the evening — two hours of tennis and one hour of fitness. From there, he made the move to the national academy in Brisbane where he trained for another two years, from ages 12 to 14.
In around late July to early August in his final year in Australia, he received an email from Andrew Stubbs, a coach from Montverde Academy in the Orlando area, offering him a full scholarship to play there. Brown didn’t know what to expect when he decided to make the move to the United States right before his fifteenth birthday.
“I had no idea when the school year was in America,” Brown said. “I’ve only ever known Australia, you start school in January, finish in December.”
He knew going to Montverde was the right move for him because he wanted to go to college, but still, he weighed the pros and cons before making a decision.
The major downside for him was that at 14 years-old he would be moving away from home and his family for the first time. At the same time, he also saw this as an advantage because it helped him become more independent.
“I was happy with that,” Brown said. “I felt like I didn’t need to stay at home or be held back, I guess, from a better potential in the U.S.”
Montverde also offered him a full scholarship, something he didn’t have in Brisbane, with tougher competition and more opportunities to play international tennis tournaments in the U.S.
“I feel like at that time when I was 14, I was ranked I think in like the top 10 or 15 in Australia for my age,” Brown said. “Then when I moved to the U.S I was like top 100 basically.”
But Brown’s time at Montverde didn’t last long. One day in April of his sophomore year, he was called to a meeting. The tennis part of the academy was shutting down and replaced by a school team.
“We never got told exactly why but we had our speculations and everything,” Brown said.
This left Brown with a dilemma. They gave the students at the academy one of three options: stay at the school at Montverde Academy and practice with the school team (which was a dramatic drop in level), go back to Australia or make the move to Hilton Head Island, S.C. to attend Smith Sterns Tennis Academy and complete their schooling there.
Wanting to continue his journey in the U.S., Brown chose to make the move to Hilton Head to train at Smith Sterns. He thought it would also be best for college recruiting. Once there, Brown found the experience was much different than it was in Orlando.
“When when I went to Smith Sterns Tennis Academy, it was in a small neighborhood, things were very close together, the beach only took two minutes or three minutes to walk to, it was sort of like an island life,” Brown said. “It was basically tennis, school, sleep, like that. It was very disciplined and you didn’t really have as much of a choice of social things to do.”
During the time Brown was at Smith Sterns, his play improved significantly, and at the end of his junior year he started to talk to college coaches and began the recruiting process. He was driven both academically and in tennis, and decided he wanted to go to a college that was in the top 25 for both.
He began talking to Michigan coach Adam Steinberg, and the assistant coach at the time, Sean Maymi, and throughout the summer of his junior year and start of his senior year, the coaches came to some of Brown’s tournaments to watch him compete.
“I played well and we stayed in contact and they kept watching me for all my results,” Brown said. “Then I had a bit of a breakthrough in November or December of my senior year.”
In February of 2017, he got an offer from the Wolverines. He talked to his coaches, and unanimously they encouraged him to accept the offer and attend Michigan.
“I gotta go here,” Brown said. “Hearing that from every coach is pretty special.”
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