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updated: 9/29/2012 10:57 PM

Lake Zurich's Thompson courts a future at Eastern Illinois

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Born here, in the good ol' U.S.A., Grant Thompson doesn't claim an accent.

Oh, but his mother, Lesley, who hails from South Africa, speaks with a beaut.

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"She has an accent," Thompson said. "My grandpa has a really great accent. He played pro soccer in South Africa."

Thompson, a Lake Zurich senior, doesn't play soccer. He hits other kinds of wicked shots. He doesn't have much game on the basketball court, despite that he stands 6 feet 4 and weighs a solid 200 pounds. His dad, Rich, who's also 6-4, played basketball at Chicago State University.

"I get it all the time," Thompson said. "If I'm at a restaurant, (somebody will say), 'Oh, you play basketball, I'm assuming.' "

Try tennis, actually.

Thompson has lots of game.

He just gave a verbal commitment to play Division I tennis for Eastern Illinois University and will sign his national letter of intent in November. He also talked with the coaches at Northern Illinois, Toledo and Marquette.

"Eastern gave me a great offer, so I couldn't really refuse," said Thompson, who took an official visit to EIU's campus in Charleston this month. He plans to study kinesiology. "I really liked the team, the coach (John Blackburn) and the campus. It's pretty big, but it's compact, so you can't really get lost."

High school tennis fans won't have a problem finding Thompson on the courts. Look for the tall kid making his opponents look even smaller. He played varsity for Lake Zurich as a freshman and won three matches at state as a 17-32 seed after finishing as the North Suburban Conference runner-up at No. 1 singles to Stevenson star Blake Bazarnik.

But Thompson missed basically his entire sophomore season with an ankle injury.

Last spring, he skipped prep tennis to play in USTA tournaments.

Next spring, he plans to be back playing for Lake Zurich's Bears.

"I'm excited for that," Thompson said. "I missed it. Sophomore year was rough because of my ankle and everything, and last year I missed the guys too because I'm friends with a lot of people on the team. So it'll be a lot of fun this year."

As tough as it was to miss out on hanging with his high school teammates last spring, Thompson felt he needed to do what was best to improve his game. He worked with Erik Tofteland, who's been his private coach for a little more than four years, at the Libertyville Club.

"It went really well," Thompson said of playing the USTA tourneys. "I feel like I improved a lot not playing high school and just focusing on my game and working with my coach."

What the righty-hitting Thompson brings to the tennis court besides a big presence is a big serve and big forehand.

"I have a pretty aggressive style of play," he said. "Yeah, I would say I play a tall man's game."

Who said tall guys just play hoops?

"I was kind of a late bloomer," Thompson said. "It took me a while to get used to my height. I like basketball a lot, but it's a little too late.

"I play with my friends now, but it's just for fun."

Focusing on tennis has proved to be a slam dunk.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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