Each set, serve and backhanded-winner moves Jered Wilson one step closer to fulfilling a seemingly predestined family legacy at Red Oak High School.
There is only one problem with that conclusion, though. Tennis — especially at the level that Jered competes at — was not born into the Wilsons.
You see, his father, John Wilson III, did not play competitively after high school, while his mother, Sherry Wilson, plays for fun with friends.
Jered shared his parents have always encouraged the five boys to participate athletically and would support whichever sport or sports each child chose to stick with.
So it is merely by happenchance that the first four Wilson boys have all chosen tennis.
The family and Red Oak tennis tradition began with the eldest brother and recent North Carolina A&T graduate, John Wilson IV.
John picked up tennis in the midst of playing various other sports. He eventually made an appearance at the state tournament in 2013 and continued his career at North Carolina A&T.
"My brother really got attached to tennis, and ever since then we have all kind of just followed in his footsteps,” Jered explained.
The first to succeed John was Joshua Wilson. Joshua is currently in his sophomore year at Alabama A&M where he shines on the tennis court. He had his shot at a state tournament thwarted by a leg injury on the basketball court.
There is also Red Oak senior and Hawk tennis player, Jordan Wilson.
And then we arrive at Jered. The Red Oak sophomore has an opportunity to become the first Wilson to win a state tennis title later this week in College Station.
"I have known Jered and the family for a very long time," Red Oak tennis coach Danita Calhoun said. "Jered was probably smaller than any of them, but he always wanted to come out and hit all along — not at school but afterward. All of their family comes and plays. He looks up to his older brothers, but he has also played a lot of older players probably older than his brothers. He could always hang with them. He is strong."
Jered earned his 5A state boys' singles tournament bid after rallying to defeat a challenger from Midlothian in the Region II tournament. It was the same player he lost to in the District 10-5A championship.
He then fell to Peyton Dooley, of Highland Park, in split sets of the regional championship, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6.
Calhoun said she thinks Jered has a "great chance" to take the boys' singles title Friday morning.
"Even though he placed second in our region, I thought he should have placed first," Calhoun said. "Jered has the all-around game. You see other players that have a good game, but he has finesse, he has the touch, and he just needs to get that ball deeper and get that serve going. He really is an all-around player, and he is just very smart on the tennis court."
Jered agreed that his serve has been a point of emphasis during practice sessions ever since he fell in the regional semifinals last year. "It's not the strongest part of my game, but it is something that I think I have improved on and am still improving on."
He added, "It's just great being able to represent Red Oak and go to state. Red Oak has not had too much success in other sports, so I think it is great that I get the sport of tennis' name out there. Tennis is just like any other sports at Red Oak. We are successful. We compete, and we are athletic. It is great to get the name of tennis out there."
THE BETTER BROTHER?
As most any proud parent would ponder, Calhoun said the Wilsons have occasionally asked which one of the four boys that she has coached over her 10 years at Red Oak High School is the better player.
With a shake of the head and grin, Calhoun humbly contended she routinely refuses to pick a “favorite.”
"They each have different strengths and weaknesses. I have seen them all, and they have all grown into very, very good players,” Calhoun said. “[...] The deal is they can all play together. It has been fun watching the Wilsons come through Red Oak."
When asked whom he had to thank for his success on the court, Jered rather candidly said, "definitely coach Calhoun," which drew a "whatever" and a smile from his coach.
"She really pushes me, and she has more belief in myself than even I do," Jered added. "Like in regionals, I didn't see myself going to state, but she kept telling me that we were going to come back the second day and compete. Second would be my family. They are really supportive too, and they support everything I do, and I really appreciate it."
The 5A state boys’ singles tournament begins with the quarterfinals at 8 a.m. Thursday at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center and the Omar Smith Intramural Tennis Center on the campus of Texas A&M University. The semifinals are scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday and the state championship is at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $7 for students and $20 for an all-tournament pass. The UIL will update spectator information, schedules, team profiles and live stats on its free app available for download in the App Store and Google Play.
Nerves had not yet hit Jered as of Monday afternoon. However, he does think they could creep in at some point before the first serve Thursday.
"I try to say I am not nervous now so that I don't think about it until the day before and I am not paranoid about it during the week while I'm training," he explained.
As for the tournament field, Jered said he has played against only one of the other seven competitors — Ennis’ Ben Erdmann. Jered noted he defeated Erdmann in their lone match, 6-2, 6-1.
Jered faces Rajiv Saralaya of Amarillo in the quarterfinals and, if he wins, will play the winner of Erdmann or Northside Harlan's Landon Skrobarcek in the semifinals.
"He (Erdmann) has improved though too," Calhoun said. "But our region is always so hard with the Frisco schools, and McKinney, and Highland Park, and, usually, the winner comes from our region but sometimes from the San Antonio region, too."
She added, "We are looking forward to getting down there."