Just three and a half years after emigrating from China, Chen Chen is flourishing as a sophomore at Lawrence High. He’s a high honor roll student and is 3-2 playing first singles for the tennis team.
That’s a pretty impressive record for someone who has only been playing the sport for two years.
“He’s a natural,” said Lancer coach Ken Najem. “He hits everything back, like a backboard. He plays matches and it’s a marathon.”
In this week’s Around the Horn, Chen talked about how lonely he was until his English improved, his drive to succeed and his obsession with the NBA.
Where are you from originally? “Guang Xi, China.”
Where is it? “It’s a small town near Nan Ning.”
Who do you live with? “My stepmom, Jia Li Lao, and my dad Guan Lin Chen. My stepsister, Qin Hoang, graduated from Lawrence in 2008 and Holy Cross.”
Why did you move? “My dad and stepmother wanted to get me a good opportunity for the future. I loved China but I wanted to move here to learn and to go to a better college.”
How difficult was it? “I was so lonely. I didn’t speak English. I had no friends. I learned English very quickly. I learned words every night so I can have friends. (A friend then walked by and joked, “I love you Chen.”)
How have you learned English? “I had a good English teacher. On TV, I’d copy words down and translate. I watched any show. I love basketball. I watch NBA games.”
Who is your favorite player? “Rajon Rondo. I play point guard, too. I play for the JV and varsity.”
How about Yao Ming, the great Chinese player? “I don’t like big men.”
What was your life like in China? “Middle class. We lived on the fourth floor. There were two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. It was my grandmother, uncle, brother and me.”