It took Decatur High tennis player Hampton DeMent some time to adjust to the atmosphere of the Class 6A state tournament. One set, to be exact.

The eighth-grader qualified by winning the Class 6A, Section 6 tournament. DeMent fell behind in his first match at the state tournament, losing the first set 0-6. As a young player playing on a big stage, DeMent had to learn how to calm himself down.

“I think once I got over my nerves I was fine,” DeMent said. “It was just nerves mostly for me playing in that tournament.”

DeMent rallied, winning the second set 6-0. His coach, Amanda Whitmire, told him that if he won the second set he was going to win the third because of his stamina. DeMent’s strongest attribute as a tennis player is his ability to keep playing without wearing himself out.

His coach was right. DeMent won the third set 6-3 to advance to the state semifinals in the No. 1 singles tournament.

In the Class 6A, Section 6 tournament, DeMent also fell behind by one set but rallied to win the next two. 

After proving himself in the postseason, DeMent has been selected as the Decatur Daily’s boys tennis Player of the Year.

“I think I can use the confidence I gained moving forward,” DeMent said. “Playing against good players at the state tournament really taught me what my strengths and weaknesses are and how I can improve on those.”

Despite his success at such a young age, DeMent doesn’t come from a tennis background. His mother played casually, but that’s it.

DeMent started playing at age 12, mostly just for fun, because his brother did. DeMent started to take it more seriously each year that he played.

DeMent was the No. 1 singles player last year as well. He lost in the sectional semifinals. He then came back this year and finished the season with an 18-6 record before even reaching high school.

“Hampton can outlast anyone,” Whitmire said. “I’ve never seen anyone who can play the game as long as he can. He gets better the longer he plays. He doesn’t get tired.”

DeMent has solidified himself as not only the best tennis player at Decatur High, but one of the best tennis players in Class 6A. He has four more years under Whitmire to get even stronger.

Most of DeMent’s wins this season came against older players. He faced mostly juniors and seniors in both the sectional and state tournaments.

After seeing what he did at both tournaments, Whitmire has high expectations for DeMent in his next four years.

“He’ll definitely be back at the state tournament next year,” Whitmire said. “There’s no doubt. I just see him back there every year. I really think that he will eventually have a state title.”

—matthew.speakman@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2460. Twitter @DD_MSpeakman.

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