Oklahoma Christian School senior Braxton Bates hadn't begun his first match at the boys' state tennis tournament Saturday afternoon at Oklahoma City Tennis Center when his mother, Angel Bates, began feeling nervous.
She tried her best to stay cool as Braxton's match with Tahlequah's Hunter Manes began. But two points into the match, she began her customary walk around the court.
“I get nervous when all of my kids play sports,” Angel Bates said. “I know they want to do their best and they're trying their hardest and I just want to see them succeed.”
Angel Bates said her son is the one who reminds her tennis is just a game. His maturity and level of commitment to his sport has earned him a scholarship to play tennis at Oral Roberts University.
Bates said he received other offers, but when ORU offered him a chance to stay close to home and play Division-I tennis, the decision for him was easy.
“I wanted to continue my Christian education, and then I was able to sign with ORU so it worked out,” he said.
ORU assistant coach Phillip Holland is happy to have signed the lefthander and believes he'll contribute to the program as an incoming freshman this fall.
“You judge each person by how they act,” Holland said. “Anybody who I talked about Braxton with says good things, and the ceiling isn't there.”
Bates is relatively new to the sport, having picked up a racket in earnest for the first as a 13-year-old at The Greens Country Club.
“I've been playing catch-up for most of my career,” Bates said.
But he stepped up the learning curve quickly while keeping a low profile on and off the court. Bates' high school career ended with a loss in the quarterfinals of the tournament, but he'll be able to start anew in college.
“Most people don't know who I am,” Braxton Bates said. “I kinda like that. Just do your business and you can surprise some people.”