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Getting to Know... Sam Feit

Sep 3, 2020

The third installment of "Getting to Know…" features men's tennis graduate transfer Sam Feit, a Los Angeles native who turned in a decorated four years at Gonzaga University before officially becoming a Bruin earlier this summer. Learn more about his full-circle journey to Westwood, what he hopes to bring to the team and why he admires basketball great Michael Jordan.

Q: What does it mean for you to complete your college career at UCLA, which has seemingly been your home away from home since childhood?
A: Ending my college career here seems rather fitting. It seems like the right ending to the story. I kind of grew up on those courts and learned how to play tennis there. And just being able to spend a year here – I know it's been an interesting year, not the most appropriate circumstances – I'm still really looking forward to being part of it. It's such a prestigious program. I'm really looking forward to being in LA; I've got my family here, my mom went to school here and I have some other alumni in the family. I'm just really excited to be home, around good people and a good program.

Q: You attended the Billy Martin Tennis Camp growing up and will now be playing for Coach Martin at UCLA. What does it mean for you to bring that experience full circle and what about him drew you back?
A: Besides Billy just being a great guy and a very nice, caring person, going to those summer camps from when I literally possibly could at the youngest age Billy would let me in there, I kind of got to see how he interacted with his players and the community he's created there at UCLA. It's pretty special. Growing up, I went to the summer camps, saw him and the other players he had there, watched them in college matches growing up. Billy's résumé speaks for itself – he's one of the greatest college coaches of all time. For me to be able to come back here and spend time in LA with my family and friends and play under him seems perfect.

Q: Reflecting back on when you left for Gonzaga four years ago, how have you grown as both a player and a person since making the move to the Pacific Northwest?
A: Going into college, I was 17 years old. I was a lot smaller, I guess you could say. So, I definitely feel a lot more mature in my game and just who I am as a person. I can say I've grown a lot as a student and athlete through the years. I've learned to become much more disciplined on and off the court. It's been really good for me. I can definitely say I've grown and learned a lot and I can use those things to help these guys and help the UCLA team do well next year.

Q: What do you hope to bring to a team set to return its entire roster in the spring?
A: With UCLA not losing anyone, I think I'll just add depth to an already great team. There's a lot of good players on that team, but I think it's really important because, in college tennis, the point at No. 1 means the same as the point at No. 6. Depth is huge. The kind of teams that are deep always seem to wind up as very intimidating. So, I think as the season goes on, you could deal with some injuries or just some changes, and I think it's really important for us to have a deep team, helping to make it to the back end of a season and win a national championship.

Q: Even with four years of experience under your belt, how hard is it to be a veteran leader as a newcomer on the team?
A: I can definitely say that being a new member of the team with experience is very different, not something that I could have imagined myself being a part of, but I think it's going to work out, and has worked out so far. I have a good relationship with some of the younger guys, as well as some of the other guys that I grew up with, and I think I can use my experience and what I've learned over the years to help them and share what I have. At the same time, I'm playing at a very strong tennis program, if not one of the strongest, and there's a lot they can teach me, too, because they're in the Pac-12, a different conference with different opponents. Things are a little different, but I think it's good. As a veteran, I can help these younger guys and they can also help me become a better player and person.

Q: Following the Pac-12's decision to cancel the fall 2020 season, even though tennis is played primarily in the spring, what's your mindset going into the school year?
A: So, right now, Billy just sent us the fall tournament schedule. There will be some individual UTR-based tournaments that we could take part in. But I think the biggest thing for fall 2020 is just staying in that competitive mindset, maintaining our physique and staying healthy, because the heart of the season's in the spring. That's where the end goal is – to win the national championship there. I think the mindset is just staying competitive, playing a lot of competitive matches, training, staying fit, staying healthy and being ready by the time January/February comes in.

Q: What are some of your career goals and why was it important for you to continue your education through the UCLA Transformative Coaching and Leadership master's program?
A: I'd like to travel a little bit and play some pro tournaments, get an ATP ranking and do that for a little bit coming out of college. I'm still 21, getting my master's pretty young. But using that degree, I'd like to connect it back to my previous degree in business and finance, using some of those leadership classes. The Coaching and Leadership program is extremely unique and really cool because you're able to take four electives outside of the School of Education. So, I'm looking to take some of those classes through the business school. I think maybe connecting it back to my business or finance roots, either working in sports, coaching or something in that group, I could definitely see myself doing that.

Q: Given so much of UCLA's roster is made up of SoCal natives, can you recall a memorable match or experience you had with a teammate when you were younger?
A: I have memories about all these guys, but I'd say a cool memory I have would be just going to the weekly clinics with Ben Goldberg, Roscoe and Lucas (Bellamy) over in the Palisades, which would've been when I was, like, 13 to 15 years old. I would go out there every week, just train and compete. It was such a good time back then. We were younger, just kind of going crazy on the courts after school every week. I think that was pretty cool. We had a nice little group there. It's cool to see a bunch of those guys on the team. It's pretty special.

Q: I know you love basketball, too. Growing up in a UCLA household, do you have a favorite memory from a game you attended at Pauley Pavilion?
A: Yeah, we used to have season tickets to the UCLA basketball games back in the day. I used to go, do my homework there and watch the games. But I'd say the most memorable one that I could literally imagine would have to be the Josh Shipp game winner in 2008 (versus California) where he shot the ball from behind the backboard and made it to win the game. I was sitting on the other side of the court and I will never forget watching that ball go in, going crazy as a little kid. Thought that was pretty cool.

Q: You list Michael Jordan as one of your idols. Have you had a chance to watch "The Last Dance"? If so, what were your thoughts?
A: Yeah, I've watched it twice now, actually. I love it. I love seeing the behind-the-scenes – how they interact with their teammates, how the coaches talk to them and do these little things they learn to be on the court. I absolutely loved it and the way it was made. I think it was really cool. It was cool to see some people that I'd see at school; John Stockton would come out to Gonzaga training sessions all the time. Just seeing people like that in such a high caliber in sports, and just getting that close was really cool and special.

Q: What was it about Michael Jordan that drew you to him when you were younger?
A: I think his competitiveness and his hunger drew me in. It's just never ending. I kind of see the same thing in myself. Aside from tennis, if I go play basketball, I'm going to be very competitive. I play video games with my friends and teammates and I'm competitive with them, so I just like that whole mentality of pushing yourself to be the best you can be and staying competitive. Although he did take it too far sometimes, which happens – not that it's right – but it's part of it, I guess you could say. I thought it was pretty cool.

Q: Why UCLA?
A: Well, like you mentioned before, heading into a team as a fifth-year transfer is a little different of a situation. Coming in here as a veteran, it's a little interesting. I just knew that with Billy and some of the guys on the team that I've grown up with, I'm kind of more confident and comfortable coming into that, while also being able to be with my family and part of such a great university. So, everything just kind of clicked together once I spoke with Billy on the phone and realized what I'd be getting myself into. At that point, I had talked with some other coaches where I'd be committing somewhere else, both further away from home and as a fifth-year, but I just felt like all the pieces of the puzzle kind of fit together at the right time during these unfortunate circumstances. It worked out and I'm really grateful and excited.

Favorite musical artist? Drake
Favorite movie ever? Step Brothers
Favorite food? Steak
Go-to snack? Boba milk tea (no boba)
Favorite sports team? Manchester United
Favorite spot on campus? Pauley Pavilion
Backhand or forehand? Backhand
Favorite Grand Slam? French Open

Previous "Getting to Know..." Publications
Obi Eboh -- Football
Carlie Dorostkar -- Cross Country