Devin Britton joins UM tennis program

It was a crisp, cool, sunny January Monday when Devin Britton showed up on the Ole Miss campus to sign on for the next portion of his young life. The 17-year-old has "undecided" as his major.

And that's OK. Britton, by most observers the best junior tennis player the state of Mississippi has ever produced, will eventually choose a major. But it's tennis that is his future.

As for the present, the 6-foot-3 Jackson area native brings a resume' that would be the envy of any young player anywhere.

Finalist in the U.S. Open Juniors in 2008, a world-class accomplishment in itself. Champion of the ITF Grass Courts in Philadelphia, Pa. Winner of the ITF Coffee Bowl in El Salvador. Member of the USA Under 14 Davis Cup team.

It is obvious Britton is happy to be at Ole Miss. The same goes for his new head coach. The smile on Billy Chadwick's face reached from Magnolia Drive to Fraternity Row.

This was no ordinary day in the life of Rebel tennis. If you've followed the sport at Ole Miss, and many of you have, you already know that.

But Britton, who trained at the prestigious Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida for the past three and a half years, said he doesn't feel pressure and remains low-key about it all.

"There's obviously pressure, but there is pressure in any tournament," he said. "I try to focus not on the pressure but on getting better and playing tennis. Nobody here is putting any pressure on me, but I obviously will put pressure on myself."

He says Ole Miss was an obvious choice for college.

"This is a great program. I really like the coaches. It's a great team and it's close to home. It's good for my parents and for me as well. It wasn't much of a choice for me. This was pretty much it."

But there were other options and plenty of them. Big-time tennis programs from coast to coast, every Southeastern Conference school, colleges from California to Virginia wanted Britton to play for them. But he was sold on playing in his homestate and playing for Ole Miss.

"I made my decision pretty early to come here," he said. "I didn't have to deal with that stuff too much."

His biggest decision may have been whether to attend college at all.

"That was the first decision," he said.

Some players in his situation would have opted to go pro now. Not Britton.

"It really wasn't that hard of a decision for me," he said. "I didn't have many ATP points, and this will be good for me to build my game and get stronger. And get some academics in as well. It should be good."

And there's that other question now. How long will he stay in college? It's a question that might not be comfortable to ask or to answer, but Britton seemed fairly confident in his response.

"At least two years. After that we'll see, and we'll go from there."

His game is simple to describe, said Britton, the son of Scott and Cindy Britton who live in Brandon.

"Serve and volley. I come to the net a lot. That's pretty much it."

Britton is also an outstanding doubles player. He teamed with Jamere Jenkins to win both the prestigious Orange Bowl Classic in 2008 and also the 2008 Eddie Herr Classic.

Britton, who will turn 18 on March 17, will step in for the Rebels immediately. They will participate this weekend in the SEC Indoors in Lexington, Ky. Britton will play.

He was honored last Saturday in Jackson with Devin Britton Day but isn't eager to talk about all the accomplishments and hype surrounding his game. He even knows his Mississippi tennis history fairly well.

"I don't know if Dave Randall would be happy with that," Britton laughed and said about whether he is the best junior player ever in Mississippi.

Randall, the former Tupelo star and an Ole Miss All-American, was a pacesetter for Chadwick's program 20 years ago. Randall is pro at River Hills Club in Jackson.

"Maybe at some point," Britton said of being known as Mississippi's best. "That's my goal."

For now his goal is to help this year's Ole Miss team, ranked 9th nationally, win tennis matches.

"This is a chance to come back home and to play with all these guys," he said. "It's going to be interesting. It feels good to be here. We're going to have a good team this year, and I'm looking forward to starting the season. It's going to be a lot of fun."

And no matter the major, the fun has just begun.

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