Jacob Mennuti Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Clancy Shields always wanted senior Carlos Hassey to play for him. The team didn’t matter.
Before he was hired as the head coach at Arizona, Shields had been recruiting Hassey to play for him at Utah State. When he got the job, Shields moved to Tucson – and made it a priority to take Hassey with him.
Shields believed Hassey was a lot better than his high school ranking; he especially admired Hassey’s hard work and determination.
“Most players that are in their class at that level don’t play at this level,” Shields said. “But I knew he had something special in him. He’s a special kid.
“He came in and he loved every minute of it. He loved the conditioning and the long days. Sometimes you take a gamble on a recruit, and this one paid off.”
Shields, Hassey and the Wildcats just completed the best regular-season showing in program history. On Monday, they’ll learn whether they’ll be hosting NCAA Tournament matches. The men’s team tennis brackets will be unveiled at 6 pm. The top 16 teams host; The Wildcats are currently ranked 17th in the country in the official ITA polls.
People are also reading
Hassey, a native of Surprise who attended Phoenix Thunderbird High School, said he always wanted to play in his home state. It was the conversations he had with Shields, however, that convinced him to continue his tennis career in Tucson.
“Just how much energy he brought to the table and how passionate he was about this job,” Hassey said. “When you’re talking to coaches, you can really see how that kind of goes. So just talking to him about that was truly special.”
It was a gamble for Hassey to come to Arizona. The program had very little success in the Pac-12; The UA finished last in the Pac-12 and winless in conference play during his first season.
Never did Hassey believe that, in five years, his team would finish undefeated in conference play and finish as the Pac-12 regular season champions.
“Teams would come in here, or we would go anywhere, and it was just kind of a joke to them,” Hassey said. “But now we’ve earned the respect. We’ve worked hard for this.”
The Wildcats’ historic 2021-22 season has been conducted by a roster full of talent, experience and complementary personalities. Shield says Hassey’s temperament has fit right in since the day he stepped on campus.
“He’s just a very chill dude who just loves life,” Shields said. “He’s like the guy you want to be in the car with on the road trips because he’s listening to good music and he’s joking around. He just literally has just a good aura around him and that’s so important on a team when you’re trying to build chemistry in the group.
“He’s got the flow. He’s got the swag. He’s got all those things that make your team special. We’re gonna miss him because in the five years, he’s done a great job for us.”
Hassey and his teammates are hopeful they can play at least one more match at home. Hosting the NCAA Tournament would give the Wildcats a decided advantage.
“We’ve lost only one time in two years here and that was to be the No. 2 team in the country, Baylor,” Shields said. “We’re confident here. We love the conditions… If we could (host the first two rounds) here, I’d love to see 1,000 people out here. I think the guys would realize all their hard work is paying off and that People are embracing what they do and recognizing their hard work. “
Hosting or not, Hassey hopes to leave the team in the best way possible. Arizona made the tournament in 2020, and advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. That amount of experience is what Hassey believes will set themselves up for success next week.
“We all know how hard it is to make it that far and our goals are to reach it and to go even deeper into the tournament,” Hassey said. “We know what kind of hard work that takes so we’re just going to keep working in practice and once it goes to the final dance, anything can really happen.”