From The Farm To The Court

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Nik Scholtz

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Nik Scholtz
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Oct. 15, 2013

By Kim Ling
Associate Director, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

Nik Scholtz grew up on a farm in the small town of Caledon, South Africa an entire continent away from where he presently resides as the No. 1 player for the Rebel tennis team and one of the top collegiate players in the nation.

As a freshman in 2012, Scholtz helped lead the Rebels to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and became the first player in the history of the program to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors.  In addition, he reached the NCAA Elite Eight in singles.  Last year, the two-time All-American helped the Rebels to their 10th SEC West title and also reached the NCAA Final Four in doubles.

That’s a pretty good start to a career, but Scholtz wants more.

“Freshman year was definitely better than I imagined, but sophomore year I was looking to do a little better, especially at the NCAA Tournament,” he said.  “I am not happy with just making quarterfinals or top 16; I want to win the NCAA Championship for me, for the school and the people who support us.”

Scholtz’ path to the top of the collegiate tennis world began as a kid running around his family’s farm.  

“We have a dairy farm, and we also have orchards with nine varieties of apples and two types of pears.  As far as my farming goes, I had a couple of birds and some dogs, Scholtz described with laughter. Mostly it was my dad (Calla) who farmed.  I saw it as a massive playground where I could run around and play sports.”

Scholtz dabbled in all sports growing up including tennis, rugby, cricket, track and golf.  His dad is one of the most famous athletes in South Africa.  As a rugby player, his dad was selected as the MVP of the league and led his team (Western Province) to the championship.  Scholtz settled on tennis.

“I played them all growing up, but my dad kind of pushed me towards tennis,” Scholtz said.  “He didn’t want people to judge me based on his results, plus he had a really bad knee injury when he was playing rugby.  There is a lot of contact in rugby, and you don’t have protection like you do in football.”

Scholtz enjoyed an outstanding junior career, which took him all around the globe including playing in all four grand slams and earning a career-high junior ranking of No. 22 in the world.  He had the opportunity to turn pro right away, but Scholtz decided to attend college to get an education and further develop his game.

“Your career is long enough to be able to spend the early years in college to get an education as well as develop your tennis.  It gives you a chance to grow spiritually and intellectually as well as physically, as a person.  You don’t want to come back to school when you’re 30 years old and your career is over.  I knew I would not want to do that.  I’ve always wanted to get an education.  I want to have that degree beside my name.  I definitely made the right decision.”

Recruited by all the top schools, Scholtz settled on Ole Miss before ever stepping foot in Oxford.  

 “I met assistant coach Toby Hansson at Junior Wimbledon and was very impressed. Devin Britton, who had just won the NCAAs for Ole Miss, was playing in the tournament and dominating.   A month later I met Coach (Billy) Chadwick at the US Open, and there Devin played Roger Federer on Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Ole Miss did the best job of staying in touch with me through my senior year of high school and leading me towards college instead of turning pro.”

Anyone who plays a sport knows that injuries are part of the game, and Scholtz experienced some adversity last year.   The two-time All-SEC first teamer was a having a great year before he injured his arm midway through the conference schedule.  

“It was tough, because we knew we couldn’t afford to have anyone out of the lineup, not just me, but any of our top six,” Scholtz said.   “It’s tough to lose matches you should be winning because of elements that are beyond your control.”

Scholtz, who began this year ranked No. 7 in the nation, says his arm has never felt better, and he is focused on helping the team go far in 2014.  With four of the top six returning, Scholtz believes the team is capable of achieving a high level of success.

“At least Sweet Sixteen, we’re that good,” he said.  “We proved we were a good team last year when we beat Georgia and Tennessee, but we were inconsistent.  Some of it was due to injuries.  We need to be more consistent this year and stronger at every position.”

Personally, Scholtz has high aspirations for himself.  “One of my goals is to be ranked No.1 in the country.   I want to qualify for the National Indoor in New York and maybe make a run in the tournament.  When the team season starts, I want to go undefeated in the SEC.   I don’t know if anyone has done it at No. 1, but it’s obviously tougher, because you play the best players each time out.  Also, I want to stay healthy.  Those goals can’t be accomplished if you’re not on the court.”

Scholtz doesn’t spend all his time on the courts.  He recorded a 3.5 grade point average last spring to help the Rebels be one of only two teams to end the year ranked inside the top 10 and earn the prestigious ITA All-Academic Team Award, which requires a minimum 3.2 GPA.

He also finds time to attend another one of his favorite sports, basketball.  If he is not traveling with tennis, Scholtz goes to all the games, especially since his roommate, Will Norman, is a member of the basketball team.

It’s that kind of camaraderie among all the sports, the community and the university that Scholtz loves so much about life in Oxford.

“This is a great place, I just feel so at home here,” Scholtz said.  “The people are so nice; it’s like one big family.  We all support each other and try to help each other.  It’s one big community that tries to bring out the best in each other.  The support is just unbelievable, the way the community backs the university. It’s a very unique place.”  

Scholtz likes it here so much that he says once his tennis career is over, look for him to return often.

“I plan to travel and play tournaments.  It’s a long process, in five years I can see myself hopefully breaking through to the highest level.  You’ll still see me around this place though.  I love it too much to leave it permanently.  I’ll definitely come back and visit.  I would like to have a residence here and come back every so often.”

They say home is where the heart is, and for Scholtz that means the Motherland. “At some point I’ll end up back in South Africa to run the family business,” he said.   “It’s the South African dream in Agriculture to pass along the farm to your oldest son.”

The farm can wait though.  Scholtz is focused on helping the Rebels contend for championships in the spring.

Ole Miss Gear
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Blog
    • Wallace Looks to Make More History

      Thursday, December 18, 2014 - Football

      Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, like his head coach, stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight games.  Three years later, Wallace helped lead the ninth-ranked Rebels to their first nine-win regular... read more

    • Rebels Ink Nation's Top JUCO Quarterback

      Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - Football

      Official welcome to Chad Kelly, the No. 1 JUCO QB in the country from national champion East Mississippi CC. #HottyToddy-- Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 17, 2014 Just Sent My LOI In To The University Of Mississippi!!! Feel's Good To... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Dec. 8-14, 2014)

      Monday, December 15, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewDec. 8-14, 2014Women's Basketball- The Ole Miss women's basketball team rebounded with a 88-48 win over South Alabama on Sunday. The win was the first after back-to-back losses for the Rebels for the first time... read more

    • Recapping Monday's Media Opportunities

      Monday, December 15, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss Details Stadium Expansion Plans Ole Miss unveiled the master plan for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which includes two phases of renovation and expansion. Scheduled for completion by the start of the 2016 season, the expansion will bring the seating capacity... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Dec. 14

      Sunday, December 14, 2014 - Athletics

      With final exam week on the Ole Miss campus, there was not much game action, but there's still plenty to talk about, as Ole Miss finalized salary increases for head football coach Hugh Freeze and his staff, and the football... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss Volleyball Season Highlight

      Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volleyball

      read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss Football 2014 Season Highlight

      Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss Football 2014 Season Highlight from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Dec. 1-7, 2014)

      Monday, December 8, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewDec. 1-7, 2014Football- No. 9 Ole Miss accepted an invitation to play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, where they will face No. 6 TCU on Dec. 31 in Atlanta's Georgia Dime.- Ole Miss is making... read more

    • Testing One, Two, Three

      Monday, December 8, 2014 - Academics

      While the Rebels have enjoyed a solid fall on the fields and courts and look forward to the upcoming Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and more basketball games, all student-athletes are busy this week proving they are champions in the classroom... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Dec. 7

      Sunday, December 7, 2014 - Athletics

      In the early part of the week, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract. In the late part of the week, the Rebels learned their postseason bowl destination. Here are... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 13

      Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - Men's Basketball

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 13 - MSU (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Rebels Finding a Rhythm after Trip to Florida

      Tuesday, December 2, 2014 -

      Ole Miss continued its strong bounce-back from a season-opening loss to Charleston Southern, improving to 5-1 on the season and knocking off two previously unbeaten opponents in No. 23 Creighton and Cincinnati to capture the inaugural Emerald Coast Classic. "We... read more

    • Bjork, Freeze Reach Agreement on New Contract

      Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - Football

      Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract, they both announced on Twitter early Tuesday morning. Terms will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (No. 24-30, 2014)

      Monday, December 1, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review Nov. 24-30, 2014Football- No. 18 Ole Miss won the annual "Egg Bowl" rivalry 31-17 over No. 4 Mississippi State in front of another sold-out crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday afternoon.- The Rebels finish the... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House -- Nov. 30

      Sunday, November 30, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss collected a lot of hardware over the weekend, as the football team reclaimed the Egg Bowl trophy and the men's and women's basketball returned home with regular-season tournament championship. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week... read more