people cheering for person walking with a green shirt
The UH Athletics Department hosted a sendoff celebration for Andre Ilagan in May 2022, as he headed to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Andre Ilagan completed one of the most storied seasons in the history of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa men’s tennis program. Big West Player of the Year, All-Big West First Team in singles and doubles, and an NCAA Tournament appearance, were just some of the awards and accomplishments in the 2021–22 season by the junior from Honolulu.

After contemplating forgoing his final year to turn professional, Ilagan decided to return for his senior season with bigger goals for him and his team.

person with a tennis racket hitting a ball
Ilagan in the 2022 NCAA Tournament

“I still have a lot to improve. That’s one of the main reasons why I stayed. With all of the accomplishments I did this year, I would want to do it again,” Ilagan said. “My second main reason was to win a Big West Championship with my team. One of my goals coming into college was to turn around the program and win a conference championship [lost in semifinals in 2022]. Now, our team is getting a lot better, which I can say I contributed to.”

Ilagan is just the second player in program history to be named Big West Player of the Year and the third to be named conference Player of the Year. This is the third time he has been tabbed an all-Big West first teamer and it is his second time earning first team honors in doubles.

In the 2021–22 season, Ilagan played at the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles in every match, posting a 9-4 overall and 3-1 conference record. He was ranked as high as No. 11 nationally in singles in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, and entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 40, where he fell in the first round. In doubles, with partner Karl Collins, they went 9-2 overall and 4-1 in conference play.

Academic success part of efforts

person in a black shirt with a tennis racket
Ilagan competing as a freshman in 2019

Ilagan also excels in the classroom. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree in finance from the Shidler College of Business in spring 2022, and plans to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in economics this fall. Earlier this year, Ilagan became the third UH men’s tennis player to earn a CoSIDA Academic All-District award. Ilagan was also a recipient of the Jack Bonham Award, the highest honor given to a student-athlete at UH Mānoa. Since 1974, the award is given annually to the top male and female student-athlete who “best exemplifies the ideals for which Jack Bonham stood for in the areas of athletic excellence, academic achievement, public service, leadership and character.”

“He loves challenges, he loves putting himself on the line, he loves to compete, he loves to learn. Those are great qualities to have for anybody who is looking to go to the next level,” Head Coach Joël Kusnierz said. “People can come out of Hawaiʻi and do well at the next level—at the college level—but also later on because that is all I wish for him. He keeps doing his best, he keeps progressing, he keeps learning and he keeps giving this a full shot. I have no doubt that if he keeps that mindset, the professional level can be right there for him.”

Giving back to family is ‘number one goal’

Ilagan is a 2018 graduate of Farrington High School and won two state singles titles in his junior and senior years. His success at an early age came from tireless hours of hard work and a little bit of adversity.

“My parents didn’t have much money so I just played every tournament here in the state once a month that everyone plays, and then always saved money for one big trip to go to a big tournament in the mainland,” Ilagan said.

It was gaining the experience in those tournaments, and the love and support from his family that boosted him into the person and tennis player he is today. Andre’s father, Sergio, coached him when he was younger. And Andre’s older brothers, Anthony and Mark, also won tennis titles at Farrington. Andre constantly keeps them in mind as he pursues a professional tennis career.

“That’s my number one goal is to give back to my family first,” Ilagan said. “Everything, all of the sacrifices they have done for me, I’m very thankful for that.”

—By Marc Arakaki