The Lowcountry’s list of top high school boys has taken another hit. Palmetto Christian Academy’s defending SCISA Class A champions have lost two-time All-Lowcountry selection Austin Heinz to Nick Bollettieri’s IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

That’s on the heels of the announcement that two-time All-Lowcountry star Adam Elliget has left Pinewood Prep to be home schooled as a sophomore.

The switch by Heinz, a junior, comes less than two weeks before the start of the high school season. He has been in Bradenton for a week, attending classes at the IMG Academy five mornings a week and honing his tennis game in the afternoons five days a week as well as training on Saturday mornings. He is also training one hour daily at IMG’s world-class fitness and conditioning center.

Gary Heinz, Austin’s father, has joined the 7,000-member Bayside Community Church in Bradenton as a pastor. He had served as a pastor at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant.

“Austin and I relocated down here last week,” Gary Heinz said. “In fact, he met up with Nick Bollettieri the other day while training on the indoor courts at the facility.

“Austin is working hard to position himself well to play Division I tennis on scholarship, and may one day play pro tennis. He is doing really well.”

Belton controversy

Most South Carolina tennis parents and players, especially from the SCISA ranks, aren’t overly happy with the switch for Belton’s Palmetto Championships to May 24-28 due to the nearly week later completion of the public school year.

While public schools should have a couple of weeks remaining in the school year at the time Belton is played, many SCISA schools such as defending Class AAA state champion Porter-Gaud will be involved in final exams during Belton. As a result, this year’s state qualifier is expected to take a hit in participation by SCISA players.

There doesn’t appear to be an obvious answer to the conflict due to the deadlines set by USTA Southern for players endorsed for the Southern Closed Championships, other than possibly splitting Belton into two weekends as local attorney Edward Fenno has suggested in an appeal to tournament officials.

A task force was put together to evaluate the best way to schedule Belton with minimal impact on school dates missed, according to Jessica Amick, the junior competition coordinator for USTA South Carolina.

Local notes

• Brant Fenno is No. 53 in the USTA national boys’ 12 rankings for 2012. State No. 1 and Belton boys 12 runner-up Earl Navarro is rated 37th nationally. In boys 18, Matt Mendez is ranked 58th and Connor Clements is 83rd. Hilton Head Christian’s Hampton Drake appears to have the highest ranking of any state junior with a No. 5 rating in boys 16.

• A search is on for a Charleston Area Junior Team Tennis coordinator, according to Michelle Campanella, the manager of junior programs for USTA South Carolina. She can be reached at (800) 644-7282 or (803) 781-2574.

• Porter-Gaud is scheduled to open its season Feb. 26 at home against new Class AAA tennis member First Baptist of Charleston.

• The College of Charleston women will face North Carolina State today at noon at Patriots Point.

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