Ethan Hughes needed a little push to start his high school tennis career.
“When I was a freshman I didn’t even want to go out,” remembered Hughes when asked about his first day with the Harlan County High School tennis team. “I sat in the car and Mom had to force me to go out there. I had only played with Dad and my brother, Noah, but never real competition or anything.”
It turned out that mother knew best. Hughes turned into one of the best tennis players to attend Harlan County High School, working his way up the ranks quickly to become one of the team leaders. Those skills helped Hughes earn a scholarship to Berea College.
“It’s a great accomplishment for our program,” Harlan County coach Wes Bailey said. “There is a lot of talent in this region. To have one of our own get a scholarship, it’s a testament to our kids. Ethan had the benefit of playing against some of our kids (Caleb Bailey, Jacob Raleigh, Joey Eldridge) who have moved on. Playing against those guys every day helped him. He’s also a hard working kid who comes from a great family. Berea is getting a good one.”
Hughes eventually moved up to become the Bears’ top seed in singles, catching the attention of the Berea coaching staff during last spring’s regional tournament at HCHS.
“A bunch of coaches came down, and while I was playing the Berea tennis coach talked to Dad and told him he would like me to play for him, so that’s what got my focus on Berea,” Hughes said. “I went down with the Southeast program ‘Higher Ground’ to perform and I really liked the campus and knew that was where I wanted to go.”
“After meeting Ethan, I strongly believe he will be a great addition to bolster our roster and give us even more flexibility in our lineups for competition,” said Berea coach Johann St. John.
Berea is scheduled to join the USA South Conference, a member of Division III in the NCAA, in the fall of 2017.
“This will allow us to really get our tennis development program in place as well as continue our recruiting efforts,” St. John said. “Ethan joins our team in a perfect time, as two of our senior men will finish the tennis career at Berea in the fall. His presence will allow us to keep our lineups tough and look to breakthrough with some major wins next year.”
Reach John Henson at 606-909-4134