If Columbus East tennis coach Jim Stone was correct, senior Jonathan James must be headed for some sunny days.
At Columbus East High School on Wednesday, Stone spoke to a group of East students who gathered to celebrate James’ signing of a letter-of-intent to play tennis at Indiana University Southeast.
“This weather reminds me of Jonathan’s playing career,” Stone said. “It could snow, and then it would clear up. He would be up in a match 5-1, and I would go away for a while, then I would come back and it would be 5-4. But he usually would win.”
James said inconsistency at the baseline was a problem for him during a solid high school career that ended with his 54-16 record and included a 13-4 mark last season.
“I’m playing baseball right now, and after that I am going to be playing tennis all the time,” said James, who is confident he can make an impact at the NAIA level immediately. “This is exciting.”
Last season at East, James played four matches at No. 1 and the rest at No. 2. He said his power was his strength.
According to his mom, Sally, he always has been a pretty good player at the net.
“I had coached the girls team at Scottsburg High School,” she said. “He was about 9, and he would come to practice, so I put him at the net and the girls were supposed to try to hit him. He got very good at diverting the ball.”
After his freshman season at Scottsburg, the James family moved to Columbus.
Although it was a hard transition for her son, Sally James said Jonathan always has been a hard worker.
“Between his sophomore and senior years, he got a lot better,” Stone said. “I remember his junior year he won the sectional for us. We won the deciding match 6-4 against North.”
It was the first sectional title for East since 1998.
His father, Steve James, said Jonathan changed his style his sophomore year and became more aggressive on the court.
“He really took it serious,” Steve James said. “I am not a tennis player, so I could not coach him. But I could help him with the mental aspect.”
Now Jonathan gets to compete at the college level.
“I’ve wanted to take it to the next level,” he said. “I want to step it up.”
He said he would study criminal justice at IU Southeast, but since the school is in the IU system, he could transfer all his credits if he decides to transfer to Bloomington down the road. Right now, though, he is concentrating on his first step in New Albany.
“I toured the campus, and it’s a little commuter college that fits me,” he said.