Thomas McCallie of Burnsville's boys' tennis team (Submitted photo)
Thomas McCallie is only a junior in high school, yet he’s well-versed in culture around the world. It comes from an upbringing that has seen him live in five countries spanning three continents.
One thing that has remained consistent for McCallie during his travels is his passion for tennis. The only difference now is he’s one of the best Class 2A players in the state of Minnesota.
McCallie holds down the No. 1 spot for Burnsville’s boys’ team, yet isn’t even enrolled in the South Suburban Conference school.
The young artist attends Perpich Center for Arts High School in Golden Valley. Burnsville had to form a cooperative sponsorship with the school so McCallie could play for the team in the school district where he lives with his parents.
“I’m open-minded to everything around me,” McCallie said. “I’ve definitely already experienced a lot of things.”
McCallie was born in Singapore. He also lived in South Africa, Thailand and Zimbabwe before coming to the United States before his freshman year.
The No. 9-ranked player in the state went to a boarding school for two years in Chattanooga, Tenn. When his parents were relocated to Minnesota due to a job transfer, they settled in Burnsville last summer.
“I learned to be independent,” McCallie said. “I was given a lot of responsibility. I had to make decisions on my own.”
McCallie is 13-4 on the season, his four losses coming to players ranked higher than him. He has helped lead the Blaze into the team semifinals in the Section 3 tournament.
“His character is impeccable,” Burnsville coach Ben Stapp said. “I’m trying to build young men, not great tennis players. Sometimes they just go hand-in-hand.”
The addition of McCallie also has provided Stapp with more depth. Once play starts in the section individual tournament, senior Ermi Asfaw will compete in the remaining singles spot.
The doubles teams will be comprised of senior Caleb Robb and eighth-grader Floyd Penners at the top spot, and seniors Nick Lesser and Drew Lossiah at the second position.
“Our players were excited when Thomas came in as our No. 1 player. He was welcomed with open arms,” Stapp said. “It made us a much deeper team.”
The “big-time hitter,” according to Stapp, has set a good example for his teammates to follow on and off the court.
“He works harder than anybody else, and is really intense,” Stapp said. “He sets a great example, which is exactly what you want.”
And off the court, too. One day last week McCallie made sure he had time in his schedule to get to a Burnsville baseball game.
“For not being at Burnsville High School, he is very Burnsville-oriented,” Stapp said. “He is all in, and I appreciate that.”