By Matt Hill
While playing for Elizabethton High School, Ricky Jones was always in the shadows of other great players.
How times have changed.
Playing behind Chris and Curtis Brumit at EHS, Jones used the experience to get better and now is playing in the top two positions at Milligan College.
Jones has turned out to be one of the more successful Cyclone boys collegiate players in the last decade and he has become an elite player in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
“I feel like there were some really good players at Elizabethton like Chris and Curtis Brumit and we always had pretty good matches when we played,” Jones said, “and they had been playing longer than I had so they were just a little bit better. But I feel like in college I matured as a player and now have more experience. I’ve had good coaching with Ryan Reynolds.”
Jones has even surprised himself with the success he’s had, which includes a win over Tusculum’s No. 1 player.
“I just figure I would play my hardest and let that take its course,” the senior said.
Jones also had to adjust to a raise in the competition level from a conference that Elizabethton and Unicoi dominate to the collegiate ranks.
“Our conference in high school there was not nearly as competitive, but once you got to state level there were very good players,” he said. “In college there is a lot higher level of competition.”
The raise in competition has led to a raise in Jones’ game. Jones is a baseliner who will hit groundstrokes all day long and forces the other player to make a mistake.
Players on the pro tour who Jones might remind you a little bit of include Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, two guys who pride themselves on fitness.
“My fitness is a big strength for me so I can go out and grind as long as possible — and now as an older player mental toughness is big,” he said. “I try to keep as many balls in as possible.”
The determination of this young man has led to huge things, including a part-time No. 1 seeding.
“It’s a very good feeling,” Jones said. “I’ve played one in one match and two in another. It depends on who is playing better. We have some very talented players on the team now so it doesn’t matter to me where I play just as long as the team is strong.”
Jones was a late bloomer in tennis, but he called on the help of a well known tennis teacher who now lives in Elizabethton and has worked not only with Jones, but also with players like Unicoi County’s Reed Jackson, the defending District 1-AA singles champion.
“I started playing tennis with my dad my eighth-grade year and we got connected with a guy named Al Aaron,” Jones said. “He was my coach all through high school and my first few years of college. I got busy and couldn’t continue lessons with him, but he was the main instigator in helping my tennis. He was great from the start and then playing with Chris and Curtis helped me to improve.”
Jones would probably be a great tennis instructor, but he has bigger things in mind for his life. An honor student, Jones is definitely going to be extremely successful.
“I was just accepted into medical school to become a doctor,” Jones said.