It was just a joke. But maybe it wasn’t. Logan Webber and DR Vander Meer had just won a tournament in Michigan, the day before a clinic was set to take place at the same facility. The pro running that clinic? John Hyden.
“Maybe,” the clinic’s host mentioned, “you two should play together.”
And then Webber completely forgot about the interaction, letting it slide off as nothing more than a fun thought, a playful idea, but probably something that wouldn’t happen. Until, a few weeks ago, while coaching a camp in Florida, Webber received a text message from Hyden, wondering what his plans were for the upcoming season.
“So he called me a week later and that was that,” Webber said. “I guess he was impressed by the one match I ever played against him.”
There are, in truth, a number of factors that Hyden considered when choosing Webber as his partner for the year. While the one match Webber played against Hyden, an 18-21, 19-21 loss at the Manhattan Beach Open this past summer, was an impressive one for Webber, Hyden’s 49 years old. He knows better than to pick a partner based solely off a hot 45 minutes.
“As a defender you’re always looking for the tall guy who can block,” Hyden said. “I kind of had it narrowed down to who I wanted to play with and I chatted with Evie [Matthews, Hyden’s longtime coach] a lot about it. Evie had worked with Logan a couple years ago, and I knew he was young, I didn’t know he was only 25 now, so I started chatting with him and he liked how he worked. He had a good work ethic and that’s pretty important.
“It just weighs on my brain when I play with guys who don’t work as hard or don’t want to work as hard and I heard a lot of good things from Evie.”
Indeed, Matthews has been Webber’s staunchest supporter. It’s Matthews whom Webber credits for the vast improvements he’s made in his blocking, and it’s Matthews who also happens to be Hyden’s eyes and ears in California while he runs his eponymous Hyden Beach Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Matthews knows, better than anyone, the type of offense Hyden likes to run. By extension, he knows the blockers who can run it with ease — the mobile, athletic types with good hands and an intrepid mindset when it comes to attacking balls on two.
Webber checked all of the boxes.
“Evie started working with him down there which is great because he knows my exact game,” Hyden said. “He’s really athletic, he’s really raw, he’s starting to win these smaller tournaments pretty much all the time. Playing against him, I could see how raw he was, so it’s a matter of what I could do with him. I just feel like when you have somebody that athletic, who’s that tall, you can groom him. So I’m gonna have to make another Tri [Bourne] I guess you could say.”
Bourne, who is now arguably the best all-around player in the United States, was Hyden’s first developmental project after Sean Scott retired at the end of the 2012 season. The player Bourne has become speaks for itself, and Bourne credits Hyden as the source of much of his improvement, both physically and mentally as a professional. Webber, a Michigan native, may not have grown up on the shores of Oahu, playing from the time he could walk, but he is atoning for any lack of childhood reps with a preposterous number of them in his 20s.
Rare is the tournament around the country that does not feature Logan Webber on the registration list. While Hyden laughed and mentioned that Webber might have to cool that down, it’s also what has made Webber so good, so fast.
“I’ve noticed that and that’s how he came into the conversation,”Hyden said. “The guy likes to play. He wants it. I asked him what are his goals and I want to help him get there. If these younger guys can get on that path, the sky’s the limit, especially with Phil [Dalhausser] gone, Jake [Gibb] gone. It’s wide open for whoever wants to put that work in.”
There is no doubt that the work will be done. Already, Webber is working one on one with Matthews. Already, he has found a Hyden substitute of sorts, practicing with Seain Cook, a right-side defender who has agreed to run an up-tempo offense, “all the classic Hyden stuff,” Webber said.
Hyden isn’t sure whether or not this year will be his last. He cannot personally imagine going through another off-season, another pre-season, the constant rehab required to stay healthy at 49 and 50 years old.
At this point, all he knows is that he wants to win one more tournament, and “hopefully,” he said, “I can leave one more beast on tour once I leave.”
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