January 13, 2020

Run the table: Student has a pocketful of billiards talent

Finding your place at school can take time, but when you look in the right places, it can become that much easier.

For Ervin Phillips, the right place was the basement of Wayne State’s Student Center. Serving as both his place of employment and hub for entertainment, the senior business management major at the Mike Ilitch School of Business has discovered a community in the game room — where he has also mastered the game of billiards.

“What really got me into pool, what really made me love it, is the fact that it is a whole different community of people,” said Phillips. “No matter where you go, if you find a pool hall, you can find people who you have something in common with and instantly make a connection.”

As a commuter, Phillips mentioned that this was a crucial development for him to feel at home at Wayne State.

Ervin Phillips is a senior in the Mike Ilitch School of Business, a Student Center Building staffer, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve — and a competitive pool player. 

Beginning his college education in 2012, the 25-year-old serves in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Specialist in Human Resources, and he serves Wayne State as a member of the Student Center’s operations team. Phillips ensures that the building is properly maintained, which includes setting up for events, responding to questions and assisting in customer requests.

Phillips starts most of his days by arriving early in the morning to open the Student Center for his peers; however, he extends his time in the building clocking his own hours in the game room, which has numerous Ping-Pong and pool tables available for use by university OneCard holders. Phillips takes full advantage of his student access and could be considered a founding father to Wayne State’s pool-playing community.

Phillips runs Wayne State’s billiards club, gives lessons to interested parties and hosts pool tournaments to get people involved and engaged in the game.

His interest in the game began nearly five years ago, when he found pool to be an easy way to pass the time between classes. After making a few friends from his new hobby, Phillips and others headed to a pool shop to look into purchasing their own equipment.

Phillips said that observing the worker at the store was the first time he ever watched someone play who really knew what they were doing.

When he's not running Wayne State’s billiards club, giving lessons to interested parties and hosting pool tournaments, Ervin Phillips takes time to work on his game in the Student Center game room.

“It was mind-blowing to see that he could win an entire game without me even taking my first shot,” said Phillips. “After that, I was inspired, and it became something I wanted to learn how to do myself.”

Phillips’s supervisor, Katie Beaulieu, said that Phillips is at the Student Center on a daily basis, even when he is not working.

“We have our students who work here, and this is their job, but the fact that they stay here after shows that they are having a good experience at their school’s community space,” said Beaulieu. “We are so happy to see that Ervin has built a community outside of his student employment experience, and we are excited to celebrate his successes with him, too.”

Phillips attended his first major competition in February. He competed in Michigan’s BCAPL State Championship, where he placed second in the 8-ball singles division. Phillips said he went to see where his skills stood against others, and it shocked him to find that he was able to hold his own and make his way into the finals, undefeated.

“This competition pushed me to believe that I could do more, because I could have definitely won first place if it wasn’t for a few mistakes,” said Phillips.

After his success in the first competition, Phillips attended the BCAPL/ USAPL National Championship in Las Vegas where he again went for the opportunity but ended up nationally ranked— placing seventh in his category.

“It was a great experience for me considering I was able to see all my heroes that I have been watching and learning from off of YouTube. They were all there; I got to meet some of them and talk with them,” said Phillips. “It was mind-blowing to see them play in person.”

Phillips is scheduled to graduate in the Fall of 2020. He plans to continue playing pool in various leagues and is looking to compete in tournaments in the near future as well.