Standard conversational topics – tennis, school, his part-time post office job – moderately piqued Austin Jiang‘s interest.
But bring up the controversial hip-hop artist/egotistical enigma known as Kanye West, and my notes couldn’t follow Jiang quickly enough.
“I’m known amongst my friends for a pretty unhealthy obsession with Kanye West,” Jiang said, as “808s & Heartbreak” is his favorite album. “I like how arrogant he is — that’s supported by a lot of hard work that he puts into his music. He’s incredibly talented, and his music production sounds the best. He’s not the best rapper, but makes up for it with his production.”
Hmmm — such a statement can certainly be viewed as coincidentally introspective.
That’s because Jiang, who has worked his way up from the bottom of Carleton College’s singles lineup as a freshman to topping the roster this year as a three-time All-MIAC standout, has leaned on hard work to give him the necessary edge on the court.
And he may need to channel West’s moxie this season in order to battle week in, week out with the league’s No.1 singles players.
Born in Melbourne, Australia before growing up in Green Bay, Wis., Jiang simultaneously values humility, too — his favorite athlete is Tim Duncan.
“He’s the reason the Spurs are so good, the reason they’re so down-to-earth and humble,” he said.
The senior’s squad is 8-3 overall, but a perfect 3-0 in the league so far in 2013. Though it’s a daunting task, the Knights have the MIAC’s best chance to possibly unseat perennial league powerhouse Gustavus (15-8, 6-0).
The two programs battle on April 20 in Northfield, Minn.
Here are nine things to know about Jiang.
His spring break was better than yours
We went out to San Diego and played a couple matches. We stayed at the house of an alum who was nice enough to let all 14 of us, and coach, stay there. It had plenty of room – almost everyone had a bed. We went to LA for a night, toured San Deigo … it was pretty relaxed.
He knows No. 1 singles won’t be easy
I just want to compete with the other No. 1 singles in the MIAC.
When I played 3 or 4 singles previously, I would sometimes play someone who wasn’t any good. But now I know I need to always play my best tennis.
Why attend school in a small town in Minnesota?
Carleton was known for its academics, so I knew I could get a good education and play tennis at the same time. I’m surrounded by a lot of intelligent people here who come from all over the nation, and the world. And that’s pretty inspiring.
His chemistry major (3.25 GPA) has med school written all over it
I don’t have a specialty that I favor right now. I’ll have a better idea of what I want to go into when I go to medical school and go through the rotations. I’m interested in people, and the doctor/patient relationship.
Carleton’s top tennis player sorts mail
I work at the post-office part-time. I signed up for work study before attending Carleton and that’s what I got assigned. It sort the mail, deal with people – it’s not too bad.
His college highlight was sneaking out a win over Gustavus in 2010
It was amazing, and something I’ll remember for a long time.
Just the French Open remains of his personal Grand Slam tour
I went to the Australian Open in 1998 at age 7 or 8.
In 2005 and 2012 I went to the U.S. Open. I went this past year with three of my teammates from the Carleton tennis team. The crowd at the U.S. Open is a lot of fun. Americans aren’t afraid to get a little rowdy and that keeps it exciting.
I went to Wimbledon in 2009. I think that’s the most prestigious Grand Slam. The grounds are extremely nice and I like how they make all the players wear all white. It’s a classy event. London is a great city.
Andre Agassi is his No. 1 player, for an off-the-court reason
The fact he can balance doing meth and being No. 1 in the world is crazy (laughing). He just never quit and his returns were just amazing.
His coach Stephan Zweifel is the king of quotes
We were in San Diego playing and he asked the other coach, “You have three or four philosophy majors, right?”
The other coach said, “Yes.”
“Well there goes all your alumni endowments.”