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By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville Academy's Harrison Warren knows what has brought him this far in the sport of tennis and he doesn't plan on stopping any time soon.
When Warren signed with Meridian Community College in the SA media center in front of family and friends Friday morning, he understands the process continues as he moves to the next level.
"I'm still shocked myself," Warren said after signing the letter of intent. "I've played tennis so much over the years with all of the tournaments and all of the practices has finally paid off. I've got to work even harder and that's what it takes."
Warren began playing tennis on and off during the summer when he was around 7-years-old.
Once Warren turned 14-years-old, tennis became more important, especially when he joined the Volunteers squad.
"That's when I really got serious about it and I knew that's what I wanted to do," Warren said. "I actually quit baseball to play tennis."
During his high school career, Warren met Mississippi State player Chris Doerr.
Doerr, who has given Warren private lessons for about a year, has witnessed his commitment to improve.
"He's certainly been growing and maturing," Doerr said. "The one thing he seems focused on is taking it to the next level. He's learning what it takes to play at the community college level. Now that he has the opportunity, he's really working hard. He's changing his game a little bit, but change is a good thing. He's developed areas of his game so he's ready when he reaches that level to compete and be successful."
As Coach Lynn Moorehead has tried to build a tennis program at Starkville Academy over the past two years, she's glad that Warren has been one of the building blocks.
Moorehead believes a student and person like Warren is someone that can help a team on and off the court.
"He's a great leader and involved in different things," Moorehead said. "They are getting a great athlete and student."
Warren is joining a program in Meridian that just won its fifth consecutive Region 23 championship and will travel to compete at the NJCAA National Tournament on May 14 in Dallas.
The decision to attend Meridian CC was helped along by the fact that Warren has family living in the Meridian area and there was also a connection with MCC tennis coach Wanda B. McPhail.
"I don't know what I wanted to major in, but I knew I wanted to play tennis somewhere," Warren said. "Our headmaster (John "Doc" Stephens) knows her from working with her in the past. He contacted her and she came to watch one of my tournaments."
McPhail is excited to be getting a student-athlete in Warren that has a 4.0 grade point average and is graduating second in his class.
Strong academics and a tremendous work ethic are areas that McPhail emphasizes.
"Harrison is the type of player and person that I want at Meridian," McPhail said during the signing ceremony. "He will be a great fit for our program athletically, academically and morally. His resume speaks for the outstanding accomplishments he's had over his high school career."