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In Meknes, Morroco, the tennis club is one of the nicest places to hang out with family, says Hicham Laalej.

"It's a sport that my dad has been playing since his twenties," he says. "So my dad would take [my brother and I] to that place [often]."

That's were they developed their love for the sport.

By the time Hicham was six, his older brother Omar was already playing in tournaments. Hicham quickly followed suit. Just a week after seeing Omar play in an important national tournament, Hicham signed up for his first tournament.

By the end of high school, Hicham was the second-highest ranked player under 18 in Morocco.

According to Hicham, being both an athlete and a student is no easy feat in Morocco. Everyday, his classes went from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a two-hour lunch break that he would often spend practicing tennis.

"Some [athletes], they dropped out of school," said Hicham. "But my parent never let me do that. [They said] once you get your degrees, you can think about going pro."

After obtaining his French Baccalaureate, Hicham decided that he wanted to follow his brother to the United States and enrolled at Stetson University in Florida.

"I can still keep going with school and keep practicing tennis on a pro level," said Hicham, who was impressed by the support and resources for student athletes at Stetson.

In his year there, he was named the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year and led the Hatters to a No. 53 national ranking -- their highest ever.

"He was a leader on the team with his work ethics, the results and the respect that he gets from the players," said Stetson head coach Pierre Pilote.

In his two years at Stetson, Laleej's overall record was 50-9 in singles and 27-14 in doubles.

"My coach at Stetson did an incredible job and he made me improve so much over those two years," he said. "I didn't know that in college you could improve so much."

In his time at Stetson, Hicham was more than just an excellent athlete. He was a Resident Adviser, a leader on the team and a dedicated student with visible school spirit, according to Pilote.

Though he loved Stetson, Hicham decided in January he wanted to apply for a school that was more academically challenging.

During a visit with Omar - who graduated from Drexel this year and was the No. 1 player for the Dragons - he had gotten the chance to visit Penn's campus. It immediately became his first-choice school.

So this fall, Hicham will follow in his brothers' footsteps all the way to Philadelphia as he enters the Penn School of Engineering as a junior and becomes one of three new players on the men's tennis team.

"I'm gonna miss him tremendously," said Pilote. "I would love to have him here but I am so happy for him that he was able to find a place at Penn."

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