Like many kids, Kaiden Hunkins grew up watching his dad play pool – at first, just watching from the side, often in the family's basement – until a fateful day when he decided to give it a try for himself.
From the very first moment it was clear that Kaiden was good. Real good.
The 14-year-old Waukesha South High School freshman has now been playing pool for just shy of a decade. You wouldn’t be wrong to call him a pool shark.
He's certainly making a name for himself. Hunkins will be featured on an upcoming episode of Wisconsin Life on Wisconsin Public Television. The show will air at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, on MPTV (Channel 10) in Milwaukee.
After Kaiden took his first shot, father and son would shoot pool together almost every day. His dad, also a bit of a pool shark and competitive player, began teaching Hunkins more and more
While Hunkins took a few lessons from master players through the years, "it was mostly just my dad" who taught him how to play.
But Hunkins had more than that going for him. Already having a knack for working out angles and difficult shots, Hunkins found his middle school lessons at Waukesha STEM Academy could help him visualize the math surrounding his shots.
He has since grown into a player strong enough to keep up with his dad and his friends who shoot pool in their basement, and strong enough to compete at the competitive level.
So far in his young career, Hunkins has placed in several youth tournaments. At age 10, he won second place in one competition.
"That's when I said ‘I really want to do this.’"
Last year he placed second in the BEF Junior National 9-Ball Championships, qualifying him for the world championships in China. (He qualified again this year, placing third, but he opted not to attend.)
As if that wasn’t display enough, Hunkins played in the nationals last year with a broken hand, and this year with a broken wrist.
So what does his father and his friends think of his pool shark skills?
"They are impressed when I come back from a tournament. They really encourage me."
Though just a freshman, Hunkins has his eyes set on attending a university in Missouri that offers a top-notch pool program.
"I'm definitely going to continue it, and definitely not going to stop."
In the meantime, Hunkins wants to keep working on his pool skills and getting his name out there.