JUNIOR SPOTLIGHT: Bryce Periera
A champion at major junior events like the Easter Bowl, The Ojai Tournament and the Kalamazoo Boys’ National Hardcourts, Bryce Pereira started off his year by winning an equally prestigious award by being named the SCTA Evelyn Houseman Sportsmanship Award winner at the SCTA Annual Meeting in February.
The San Marino High senior is UCLA-bound, but still has some serious business to complete this high school season as he and partner Connor Lee will defend their Ojai Boys’ CIF doubles title they won last April.
“Last year was just awesome to win Ojai,” said Pereira, who teamed with Lee and played at the 128th Annual Pacific Coast Doubles event in La Jolla recently. “We saw the competitors on the list and didn’t think we could win. We just kept winning close matches, and my dad said just take it one match at a time.”
The pair were seeded No. 5 and beat good friends and top-seeded rivals Keegan Smith and Ivan Thamma of Point Loma in the final.
Just like winning Ojai, Pereira felt a special significance walking away with the hardward at Kalamazoo capturing the Boys’ 16 doubles in 2015 and the coveted USTA National gold ball. Pereira has won three gold balls throughout his career—first at the USTA Winter Nationals in Boys’ 12s doubles (2011), and then Easter Bowl in Boys’ 14s doubles (2013), before Kalamazoo in the 16s.
“It’s pretty special to see all the names of the past winners on the board, including my future college coach Billy Martin,” Pereira said. “It’s so great to have won at Kalalmazoo and playing at Stowe Stadium is amazing. It will be a little bittersweet to end my junior career there this summer.”
But Pereira knows there are bigger and better things to come, including student-athlete life in Westwood. Even though UCLA wasn’t always the clear-cut college choice.
“If you saw me play as a kid I had a USC hat on every time,” he said. “We are pretty close to [coach] Peter Smith and the Smith family, and my dad even taught Colter [Smith’s son] for a while. But I remember getting a call while in Hawaii for National Selections and it was an L.A. number so I picked it up and it was UCLA calling. I knew nothing about UCLA, or anything about the program. But I really felt connected to Coach Martin and Coach Chen.”
Martin knows he’s got a blue-chipper in Pereira, and will especially be valuable in doubles when he starts school in the fall.
“I think Bryce is one of the most talented doubles players we’ve had join us in a long time,” said Martin. “He has unbelievably good hands and I know he’ll be in our doubles lineup from day one. He’s a great kid from Southern California, and I couldn’t be happier to have him joining us.”
And Pereira couldn’t be happier about the other incoming Bruin freshman that rank as one of the top recruiting classes in the country as Lucas Bellamy, Connor Hance and Keegan Smith will all don the Bruin Blue for the next four years.
“All the guys going in as freshman are like brothers to me and we’ve know each other since we were 6,” Periera said. “It was tough. It was between USC, UCLA and TCU, since Coach Dave Roditi was my coach for a few years at the National Training Center and my sister [Alexis] plays there. When I told both coaches it was the hardest thing I had to do. They were both heartbroken, but I had to do what was best for me and my tennis.”
Periera will start school undeclared but is thinking about business or possibly sports medicine as his field of study.
And Pereira can always fall back on his acting career. Three years ago he had a role in a Wilson commercial with Roger Federer. “He was unreal,” Periera said. “He walked in with no entourage. He was eating ice cream with us and was hitting with us. We thought he’d be off to the side. It was more than five hours and he sat there talking and laughing the whole time.”
As for his free time, Periera said he’s content doing some casual reading, but with sports mental books like “Sacred Hoops” and “The Four Agreements” to help sharpen his complete tennis game.