Marquette freshman Javier Varela Hernani had a difficult choice to make last year in his native Spain.
Since European colleges generally don’t allow students to pursue athletics and academics at once, Varela Hernani needed to decide between an academic career in Spain and making the move to the U.S., where he could do both.
Varela Hernani had never stepped foot in the U.S. but he decided to take a chance and become a Golden Eagle. Despite the completely new environment, the freshman has no regrets about his choice.
“It’s different for sure, but I’ve been good so far,” Varela Hernani said. “I think it’s pretty worth it. It’s a very good experience for me, getting to know a different culture and playing a high level of tennis here. It’s very demanding but it’s a very good experience for me as a person and as a player.”
Coach Steve Rodecap met Varela Hernani in Spain to watch him play and become familiar with him. Rodecap is glad Varela Hernani chose to play at Marquette but realizes what he needed to surrender in order to play here.
“Athletics were very important to him and he didn’t want to give that up,” Rodecap said. “He wanted an education and he wanted the sport. He gave up a lot to be here. That tells you something right off the bat.”
Varela Hernani’s teammates have helped him adjust to college life and life in the U.S. They know what it’s like being the new player on the team and trying to fit in.
“All the guys on the team have helped me a lot because they know how it is to be a student-athlete,” Varela Hernani said. “It’s been easier thanks to them.”
Junior Logon Collins looks forward to having Varela Hernani as a teammate and knows it will take time for the freshman to learn what the program expects from its new players, especially those from overseas.
“There are different requirements that coach expects that they may not be used to from their culture,” Collins said. “Everything is different for him, but he’s picking it up quickly.”
Collins is glad to have Varela Hernani on the team because he believes freshmen always offer something refreshing on the courts. Collins already sees a promising season ahead for him once he gets fine tuned in practice.
“He’s got good hands and a good forehand,” Collins said. “He’s still learning and has a lot to develop. He’s still in the molding process and we still have to work on his game, but he’s getting there.”
Rodecap views Varela Hernani as a well-rounded player both on and off the court. He noted that Varela Hernani’s academic dedication and willingness to adapt to a new culture will translate to how good he can become as a player.
“I think with him there is a three-pronged component to his development as a person,” Rodecap said. “One is academically, two is the social, and three is the athletic side of it. I feel like he’s managed those three things very well. He’s very serious about all of them.”
Despite all the duties a student-athlete must face on a day to day basis, Varela Hernani still has time to keep in touch with his friends in Spain, who praise his decision to pursue his passion.
“They’re happy, and I have very good friends in Spain,” Varela Hernani said. “They all call me and ‘say make the most of your time there, work as hard as you can and if you have time to talk to us, tell us a couple of things.’”