Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Brookwood's Randy Phillips is the Daily Post Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
SNELLVILLE -- Standing just 5-foot-6 and weighing only about 135 pound, Randy Phillips hardly casts the most intimidating shadow any time he takes the tennis court.
But what the Brookwood senior lacks in physical size, he's more than made up for in heart and ability.
Still, as easy as Phillips made it look at times while accumulating a 17-1 record at No. 1 singles in helping the Broncos to the Class AAAAA state championship -- the sixth in school history and the first since 2000 -- there were many big obstacles to overcome on his way to becoming the Daily Post's 2011 Boys Player of the Year.
Mostly, those obstacles took the form of much bigger and stronger opponents, though that is something Phillips says he has gotten used to dealing with and compensating for.
"It's always been hard because my serve hasn't been as big as a lot of these (bigger) guys," Phillips said. "But the one good thing about being as small as I am is, I'm a good deal quicker or faster than the other guys are. So, I can use my speed to my advantage."
But the way Brookwood coach Heath Hinton sees it, perhaps the biggest potential stumbling block Phillips faced heading into this season might have been more mental than physical.
After being in a comfort zone as the Broncos' No. 2 singles player -- and earning first-team, All-County honors in the process -- it could've been a major disruption moving up into the No. 1 singles spot and trying to fill the formidable shoes of graduated senior Grayson Mills.
But Hinton said Phillips showed the kind of mental toughness and maturity that led him to put the senior in Line 1 in the first place, and fit in very well with a supporting cast that included fellow first-team All-County teammates like No. 2 singles player Mark Guentert and the No. 1 doubles team of Matt Jones and Drew Wendel.
"His focus and confidence in himself this year was significantly better, and he really showed it," Hinton said. "You could tell he understood he was jumping up to No. 1 singles and he had to do better.
"Probably the best example of that is when he first came to us three years ago. We played (and lost 3-0 to) Alpharetta (in the second round) of the state tournament, and he played Anish Sharma at No. 3 singles and lost easily. Two years later, we play them again (in the quarterfinals) and Randy played him at No. 1 singles and beat him."
In fact, Phillips, currently ranked No. 3 in Georgia in the Boys 18 division by the USTA, beat pretty much everyone who stood across the net from him this season -- with the exception of 18th-ranked Harry Heyburn of McIntosh -- including all five of his postseason matches.
Still, there is plenty the recently graduated Phillips believes he needs to work on in his game, which is why he won't be headed off to college just yet.
Instead, he will take the next school year off to work with Ashley Hobson of the Hobson Performance Tennis Academy before trying to catch on in a college program like Georgia State or UNC Greensboro in the fall of 2012.
"My aim for the summer is to make (U.S. Under-18 Nationals in) Kalamazoo (Mich.)," Phillips said.
"I want to improve my serve. Right now, my serve is probably the weakest part of my game. I also want to get stronger and fitter, so I can play on the college level."
Of course, Hinton has not doubt Phillips is capable of excelling in college tennis the way he did on the high school level.
"If someone will give him a chance, he can really do well," Hinton said. "I was watching an NCAA (tournament) match between USC and Virginia not long ago. One of the teams had a kid his size playing. So, it's doable."