The 4 SFs for Champaign Challenger are all former college players ranked inside the top 200: Americans Shelton (FL), Eubanks (GT), Kovacevic (IL) and Australian Vukic (IL). None of these played in the MD of a Jr Grand Slam, though Vukic did play Qualis of AO Open jrs. Shelton had the top ITF jr ranking of 306 but he only played 4 jr ITF events-3 of them in Florida. Kovacevic who lived in Florida only had a jr ITF ranking high of 528 with a record of just 32-30 or 50%. He mainly played in Florida, but played a few international, Southern, and Cali ITFs . He lost in the 1st round of all the Cali ITFs he played. Eubanks only played the Atlanta ITF two years and had a ITF jr CH of 1740. Vukic had a ITF jr career high of 726. His record was 18-8 over 4 years of play so he didnt play many jr ITF events per year.
As far as ATP points, Vukic earned his 1st points in 8/14 right before the start of his freshman year at Illinois. By graduation in 5/21, he was mid 400s. A little less than 2 years later, he broke top 200 in March '20. Since then he has ranged from 118-222 ATP; obviously the pandemic affected his rise. Eubanks didnt earn his 1st ATP point until the summer before his college junior year. At the end of his junior year he was in the 600s, but after a QF finish at ATP 250 in ATl he was ATP 322 in 8/17 and turned pro that Oct foregoing his last season. He broke top 200 in 4/18 less than a year later. However from 4/18-9/21, he moved up and down between 150-250. Since 9/21, he has remained in top 200; he reached a career high of 120 11/7/22. After 5 years of pro play, will he break through to top 100 in the next 6 months? He's been playing his best tennis recently only losing to Shelton. Finally Shelton didnt earn his 1st ATP point until 7/21 after his freshman year at Florida. By 5/22, he was mid 500s and he broke 200 this August and turned pro. Now he is at 108.
This 4 players show that to have success on the pro Tour there is no need to play Jr ITFs-especially traveling internationally. Eubanks and Shelton only played a few close to home. These guys are ranked well ahead of many collegians who were ITF jr top 50. The earliest any of these earned ATP points was right before college. I think what was most helpful to the US guys were WCs into Futures, Challengers, and ATP 250s. These guys were also on the USTA Collegiate team. I hope USTA will spend more resources on top American collegians in the summer and less on boarding juniors from 13 or 15 on at UsTA national campus. There are players who spent years with USTA and struggle to crack ATP 600 or 1000.
I hope these examples show that parents dont have to rush to spend a lot of $$ with international travel pre college. Late bloomers can flourish in college. Both Eubanks and Kovacevic were 5 stars not blue chips in high school. Eubanks played for his high school team-attended regular high school. Eubanks didnt play much USTA until later in HS-he was just a 4 star soph and 3 star freshman. Kovacevic was just a 4 star freshman-jr year but had a great run his senior year. There are folks that discourage junior players implying that they are behind if they dont start playing tourneys by 8 or 10 and national events by 12. That's a bunch of BS. Encourage any late bloomers you know. While very few will reach ATP 200, players who were 3 stars in middle school could end up playing line 1 at a D1 school, earn an ITA ranking, play NCAAs, and qualify into MDs of Futures. Players dont need to leave home, board at an academy for years to find success in college and/or the ATP Tour! The true talent will rise to the top without sacrificing their entire childhood.