For Professor Harold Hill, the fast-talking salesman from the “Music Man” pool may have been a sign of trouble in River City. In the Spring City, more commonly called Waukesha today, pool is having a much more positive influence on one young man, thirteen-year-old Kaiden Hunkins.
Hunkins is one of the nation’s top youth players and has played in tournaments around the country, even representing the U.S. in China.
The Waukesha STEM Academy student applies his learning to his pool hall pursuits. “From knowing math, having it in your mind,” Hunkins says, “you know where to hit the ball.”
But Hunkins is also a natural talent, something father Keith Hunkins observed the first time he approached the family’s pool table as a toddler. “Boom, boom. Left and right, he’s making cuts,” the older Hunkins recalls. “Then he’s making banks. We’re all laughing. We couldn’t believe it.”
Keith, himself a skilled shooter, entered his son in tournaments at an early age. He didn’t have much sympathy for those experienced players who complained about losing to a kid. “You put the dollar in, play the kid. You win or you lose. That’s it,” chides Keith. “If you don’t want to lose to him, then be better. Don’t miss.”
Of course by now, no one has lost to Kaiden more than his dad. Kaiden has trouble recalling when he first beat him, “I can’t remember now that I’ve beaten him so many times but I was probably being a little cocky.”
But he doesn’t bring that attitude to tournaments where he is know as a cool customer behind the cue stick. “In a tournament it’s disrespectful to trash talk,” says Hunkins. “I believe in karma and I think karma causes you not to play as good.”
His play has been great, giving Hunkins the ambition to one day go pro. “If this is the career for me,” Hunkins says, “I’m going to have the best life.”
But if things don’t work out, don’t worry that Hunkins will end up behind the eight ball. At school, he’s becoming an increasingly devoted student, even as his pool career takes off. “If you put school first you’re definitely going to make it,” says Hunkins.