Mount Airy senior Jordan Lawson has chosen Lenoir-Rhyne University to continue his academics and tennis career.
The left-handed slugger has been part of two state championship teams and is working toward a third.
The Bears won the state title in 2009 and repeated in 2010 as Lawson moved into a starting role for doubles play.
Last year Lawson became a full-time starter for singles as well.
After playing in the fourth spot last year, Jordan moved up to a higher competition at the third seed. Still, he went 13-2 in singles play, then teamed up with Mitch Kessler to go 20-1 in doubles before falling in the state semifinals Friday.
Jordan’s father, Lee, a native of Claudville, Va., played basketball and football in high school and his son inherited his athletic ability.
Jordan said he played T-ball, youth league baseball and AAU baseball growing up. He played on the Mount Airy Middle School team in the seventh grade, but chose to try a new sport in the eighth grade.
The Bears’ tennis team had just won back-to-back state titles in 2005 and 2006.
Jordan said he’s always had a hunger to win, and the chance to play for a championship was too much to resist, so he went out for the tennis team in the eighth grade and loved it.
“When he decides something, he gives 110 percent or he doesn’t do it at all,” said mom Dawn.
Being new to the sport, Jordan wanted to learn all he could so he began private lessons, working with James Hayes and Mike McHone.
He was stuck behind great players as a freshman, then got a chance with doubles as a sophomore, which made him want to get even better.
He signed up with the Randy Pate Tennis Academy that summer, working with instructor Kevin Fleck.
The first thing Fleck noticed was that Jordan was a very nice young man, friendly with all the other athletes.
During private sessions, Fleck found the young man to be a pleasure to coach.
“He listens well, is attentive and wants to get better,” said Fleck, and he soaks up instruction like a sponge.
This past fall Jordan was traveling all the way to Winston-Salem six days a week, he said. Very few people in the academy came as often as he, and they lived closer.
“His ground strokes are very solid,” the instructor said. “He hits it with good pace and spin.” His serve went from being mediocre to being a strength.
As for what he still has to work on, Fleck said Jordan can continue to improve at finishing at the net, but mostly he just needs more experience.
Some players start as freshmen and have a hundred matches under the belt by graduation. Jordan is still learning and improving his tennis I.Q.
As part of an effort to gain more experience, Jordan has played in six or seven U.S. Tennis Association tournaments in the past year outside of all his school matches.
When the school season came around his junior year, Lawson had a new coach. After two years with Scott John, Dr. Jim Reeves had taken over the position. Midway through the season, Rodney Pell joined as assistant coach.
Late in the season, Reeves was named interim president of Surry Community College, and Pell stepped in to lead the team.
“Jordan has invested the necessary time, energy and resources to become a successful player,” said Pell, who coached for years at North Surry before retiring from teaching two years ago.
“In both singles and doubles, Jordan has proven to be a key contributor to the success of the team,” said Pell.
“Jordan’s work ethic and cooperative nature will serve him well as his college coach prepares him for the next level of competitive tennis,” said Pell.
That next level is at Lenoir-Rhyne, which is still building back its men’s and women’s tennis squads after discontinuing the sport following the 1998 season.
Women’s tennis returned to the school in 2005 while the men’s tennis team started back up in 2008 after McKee moved to Lenoir-Rhyne from Presbyterian College.
The program looks to be in the right hands with McKee, who was named NAIA National Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year in 1987 and ITA/Wilson National Men’s Tennis Coach of the Year in 1992. McKee’s teams have been ranked in the top 25 nationally for 21 of his 26 years as coach.
Jordan, a southpaw, said McKee is the first left-handed instructor he’s ever had, so he hopes that helps his development.
“We also looked at East Carolina,” said Dawn. “He was accepted there.”
However, Lenoir-Rhyne felt like the better fit for Jordan, who says he plans to major in pre-law.
Before his college career begins, however, Jordan has one final week left to finish off his high school experience.
Reach Jeff Linville at email@example.com or at 719-1920.