Basinski taking her tennis ability to Winona State

Aimee Basinski’s natural tennis ability will serve her well as she continues her education, on and off the court, at Winona State University.

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Aimee Basinski’s natural tennis ability will serve her well as she continues her education, on and off the court, at Winona State University.

Most young tennis players can work on their strokes tirelessly for years and never achieve the swing that comes naturally to Aimee Basinski.

That assessment comes from Basinski’s coach at Central High School, Kathy Elliott, and she said Basinski has always had that swing, be it her forehand, backhand or serve. And by always, she meant always, as in from the time Basinski picked up a racket at age 3.

“Her swing is a God-given gift,” Elliott said, “and I’ve told her that many times.”

It’s the kind of swing that would have made her a sure-fire NCAA Division I recruit, Elliott added, except for one thing: “She’s a petite little thing.” And Division I, Elliott added, is filled with much bigger, stronger players, whom she described as “monsters.”

Indeed, Basinski is 5-foot-1 and about 100 pounds, but there’s a place for her on college tennis courts at the Division II level, and Wednesday she accepted a scholarship to Winona State University in Winona, Minn. Besides liking what she saw there during a visit, Basinski said Winona State has a good medical program, which she plans to be part of, and she has two brothers living about two hours away in the Twin Cities area.

Basinski, who placed sixth in the Class 5A state tournament last year, said she expects to be play as a freshman, perhaps in the No. 4 position.

Winona State is getting a player who started at No. 1 singles for four seasons at Central, and next week she will go for her third straight regional championship.

“She is without a doubt one of the most gifted tennis players, for girls, in the valley in about the last eight years,” Elliott said. “She’s a very natural tennis player.”

There’s that natural reference again, and Basinski’s mom, Georgia, said it was evident from the time she started taking Aimee with her when Georgia played tennis against friends in town.

Georgia said she’d finish her match, but that wasn’t the end of her tennis for the day, because her 3-year-old daughter didn’t want to go home to play. She wanted to hit balls with Mom, so Georgia obliged.

“She just had it from the get-go,” Georgia said of her daughter’s swing.

Mom said she also noticed early a number of other traits that contributed to tennis excellence: a good mind for the game; how to play the game well; how to pull out a win; and determination.

Aimee added she thinks her greatest strengths are her dedication to the game — “There’s so much hard work you have to put into it,” she said — and never giving up on herself.

Playing the game also is a stress reliever, she said, and it provides lessons that apply off the court.

“Having to keep yourself calm through situations and learn how to handle them has helped me in real life,” Aimee said.

All of those skills, lessons and the mental toughness makes for a deceptive package, one best not to underestimate because of her size.

“I’ve been told by people that they don’t expect so much power to come from such a little thing,” she said with a smile.

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