A few years back the parents of St. Ed’s senior Jeffrey Bi were searching for a sport he and his two siblings could enjoy together – and tennis won by a walkover. That became the impetus behind the entire family eventually shedding New Jersey in favor of the Sunshine State.
Then, in a stormy twist of irony, Bi nailed down his college destination when circumstances forced him to temporarily leave the state of Florida. However, this time it had nothing to do with tennis.
“I guess you have to go all the way back,” Bi explained. “Growing up, our parents encouraged us to try every sport. Then my older brother Howard started playing tennis. My younger sister Emily came along and she was really good. We all really liked tennis and decided that was the way to go. Since then it’s really been our family sport.”
Emily Bi is the undisputed best player in the family. She and her mom kicked off the family migration to Florida, a recognized mecca for youth tennis training. Emily Bi is currently enhancing her skills at the Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, and she recently left to play in tournaments in China.
The rest of the family tied up loose ends and moved to Florida in stages.
Howard and Jeffrey were no slouches themselves on the tennis court. They enrolled at St. Ed’s – Jeffrey as a freshman in 2013 and Howard as a senior in 2014 – and the brothers immediately became top players on the varsity tennis team.
“I was on the varsity tennis team for three years,” Bi said. “I didn’t play last year because the SAT and AP classes came around and I just couldn’t do it. It was a really busy season.”
With his priorities properly aligned, Bi regained the No. 1 spot in the singles tennis rotation this year for head coach Paco Munoz. That was often his starting slot for the Pirates in 2014 and 2015 under then-head coach Alet Filmater. Bi found a comfort zone on the court and that was an important factor in the process of assimilating to Florida and St. Ed’s.
“When I first came here I was kind of distant from everyone because I came from a large public school,” Bi said. “So the feel was completely different. Then I started to play tennis and made a couple of really good friends. That helped me integrate into the St. Edward’s society.
“In the time I played tennis here I faced some really good, hard players. It’s always been fun and there has always been a team environment. We always cheer each other on. There has never been a moment where I felt like we were not a team, or that we were not working together.
“I always knew that we were fighting together for something – for a team win. We were almost like a family.”
Bi says he may try to walk on in college, though he admits the odds are probably against it. Academics will have precedence, and while his college destination is steeped in strong family influences, the visit that clinched the decision came about due to very unusual circumstances.
“I actually really fell in love with the University of Chicago during Hurricane Matthew,” Bi revealed. “My father went there and my brother is currently going there. Of course, that is one of the reasons I’m going there.
“But I flew up to escape the hurricane and lived with my brother for three days. I stayed in his dorm room and went to classes with him. I got a feel for the environment of the school and really fell in love with it. One night it was almost midnight and the students were still sitting in the lounge talking and debating.
“I knew then this is where I want to be.”
The field of study that he will pursue came into focus gradually during his four years at St. Ed’s. Bi said, “As a freshman I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I took AP psychology my sophomore year and that’s when I started to chase my interests.
“In my junior year I took AP economics, AP calculus and AP statistics. That’s when I really knew that I wanted to go into something econ-based, but also with a psychology side to it. So I hope to major in economics at the University of Chicago.”
Bi will be reunited with his brother Howard in college, as they were in high school. They will both continue to play the sport that unified the family, but most likely on a casual basis. The serious tennis is on the capable racquet of Emily.