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What's With That Hat? We Introduce You to Cason Campbell

by Erik Tice on

Most 17-year olds spend their weekends hanging with friends, preparing for exams and sneaking in a little screen time.

If you're Cason Campbell, you're taking the professional pickleball world by storm on the weekend. And after last week's PPA Mesa Arizona Cup, Cason (and his hat) are no longer a secret.

Childhood and Family

Cason was born and raised in Palmetto Bay, Florida, a suburb of Miami. His parents, Cindy and Michael, always encouraged their children in their sports endeavors. Cason started out his athletic career playing soccer at a young age and continued to play up until the age of 14. He excelled and played on a competitive travel team until he left soccer for tennis.

Around the age of eight, Cason picked up a tennis racquet and immediately took a liking to it. Immediately, he built a sibling rivalry with his older brother, Colbin, to see who would become a better tennis player. Cason played juniors and became obsessed with tennis – maybe even too obsessed. The brotherly rivalry continued until about a year ago, when Cason quit tennis for pickleball. Colbin is now a freshman in college at Eckerd, where he plays on the men’s tennis team. Cason also has a younger sister, Cailyn, 13, who plays both tennis and pickleball.

When I was talking to Cason about his obsession with tennis and the negative impact it was having on his life, I immediately thought of Travis Rettenmaier and his podcast, “Tennis Sucks".

Travis talks about the negative side of tennis quite a bit and some of the things Cason was saying definitely sounded similar. While Cason never said “tennis sucks,” it was evident talking to him that tennis had taken over his life and had become a negative thing at the age of 15. 

The last tennis matches Cason played were in April of 2023. He won the 4A Florida State High School Championships for Miami Palmetto as a sophomore. Since then, Cason hasn’t played any competitive tennis and is focusing on pickleball exclusively.

Cason Campbell
Cason Campbell wasn't hard to spot last week in Mesa.

Transition to Pickleball

For Christmas in 2022, Cindy got Cason a pickleball paddle. She could see that tennis was wearing him down and wanted her son to have some alternative athletic options that could be a positive experience. Cason picked up pickleball quickly and within a few months, started playing tournaments. 

Cason played 5.0 men’s singles at the PPA Denver in July of 2023. He won five matches in a row and won the gold medal in 5.0 singles. He beat legit players as well – Bryan Hammond and Luke Wasson were both in his draw, and he beat them both.

To reiterate: Cason picked up a pickleball paddle in December, 2022 and seven months later he won a 5.0 singles bracket at a PPA tournament.

About a month later, Cason made his pro qualifier debut in singles at the PPA Kansas City. He made it to the finals of the qualifiers and lost to Marcel Chan, 4-11, 4-11. Cason then went on to play in the PPA Pro Points Draw. He won four matches there, including a good win over Phuc Huynh. He eventually lost to Mohaned Alhouni in the final, but got a silver in the Points Draw.

Cason then went on to play two APP tournaments – Atlanta and Houston, in the pro qualifiers. He won a match in each of those tournaments, but lost his second match in both. 

Cason’s first real step into the pickleball spotlight came in the PPA Hertz Gold Cup in Holly Hill, Florida, in November. He won three pro qualifier matches to make it into the main draw. He got a No. 26 seed in the main draw, losing to Jay Devilliers, 5-11, 3-11. 

In January, Cason played The Masters in California, winning a match in the pro qualifiers, but again losing to Mohaned Alhouni in the second round.

And then he showed up in Mesa.

Cason won three pro qualifying matches fairly easily and then made it to the main draw. In the main draw, he was the No. 43 seed and first played No. 21 seed Marshall Brown. Cason won the match, but it went to three games and Cason won 12-10 in the third game. Next up was No. 29 seed Blaine Hovenier, and Cason lost the first game before winning the next two. Two very good main draw wins for Cason who then faced No. 12 seed Collin Shick.

I would say that Cason “Shicked Collin Shick.” Shick came onto the scene in a big way last year with a big silver medal in the PPA Florida Open. Cason won that match 12-10, 5-11, 12-10. Then he had to face No. 8 seed, Dylan Frazier, who was coming off of his Masters singles gold medal. Cason beat Frazier, 11-4, 3-11, and 11-6. 

In the quarterfinals Campbell met his match in Jack Sock. The match went three games and Campbell definitely made Sock work for the win but ultimately fell short, 11-3, 6-11, 11-5. 

Cason now has 300 PPA Points and is in 16th place on the year in men’s singles PPA Points.

The Hat (And Fashion)

The Hat.

This hat is in as bad of shape as you are thinking when you see it from afar. The hat is an Adidas hat that is approximately five years old. Cason wears it with the bill to the right. He has been doing that since he can remember.

Cason Campbell
Cason's unmistakable headgear isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

The hat served Cason well while playing tennis and he has continued his success with it in pickleball. Many athletes have superstitions, and this hat is definitely one of Cason’s good luck charms. I asked during a recent interview if he was going to think about retiring the hat, now that he made a big run with it. The answer was an emphatic no. Cason plans on playing in that hat until it somehow breaks or becomes a full on visor.

In addition to the hat, it's hard to miss his style in shirts. Cason is sponsored by a small company out of Florida called Addict Pickleball. They supply him with his paddles, wristbands, and shirts. The shirt Cason wears is called the Performance Polo - Cherokee Rose. 

What’s Next?

Cason is still only a junior in high school and graduates in 2025. He is home schooled though, which helps him be a little more flexible in terms of attending pickleball tournaments.

He plans on playing a PPA Tour stop once a month or so for the remainder of 2024. His next stop is in just over a week in Minnesota for the Indoor Championships.

Here are the brackets he plans to play in (and his partners):

  • Men’s Singles - Pro Qualifiers
  • Men’s Doubles - Pro Qualifiers - Mouaad Alhouni (Mohaned’s younger brother)
  • Mixed Doubles - Pro Qualifiers - Madalina Grigoriu

While he hasn’t broken onto the scene yet in doubles, Cason's singles game translates well and I am sure he will make some moves in doubles sooner rather than later.

He is looking to play with a few different partners this season to figure out what he likes and doesn’t like about partnerships. He is so used to singles from tennis that the partnership thing in pickleball is a little new to him. 

In speaking with Cason, you can immediately see his personality. The kid almost always has a smile on his face and has a youthful energy. He is extremely humble and doesn’t seem like any moment is too big for him. 

He loved watching Sock throughout his tennis career and even got to see him live once at the Miami Open. Then he found himself in the quarterfinals playing against one of his childhood idols.

It seems like his early tennis career helped him mentally prepare for this new pickleball path. That, combined with the genuine joy you can see on his face while he is playing pickleball, is a dangerous combination.

There's no doubt that he has the skills and passion to be a mainstay in professional pickleball. Keep an eye out for Cason this season!

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