OXFORD – If Devin Britton, with his sport’s highest individual achievement in his pocket, could dribble through a press and hit a pull-up jumper, there’d be no question what he would do.
If he swung a bat instead of a tennis racket, he’d be locked in for at least two more collegiate seasons.
But because Britton won the NCAA tennis singles championship earlier this week, when he’ll make the jump to chase the professional dream is less clear.
There are reasons – good ones, Ole Miss coach Billy Chadwick believes – for Britton to return to Oxford for his sophomore season, a presence that would surely solidify the Rebels as a top five team again.
There will likely also be reasons that make departure and signing with an agent an attractive option.
“I would expect him to get some different offers,” Chadwick said. “He’ll be the first to tell you there are areas he needs to improve. He needs to get stronger, needs quicker feet. He’ll have to weigh out exactly where he is at this point in time.”
The transition from college to professional tennis rarely includes a lot of front money like it does with signing bonuses in football, basketball and baseball. Likely, an agent will try to impress Britton with what type of support he can provide by way of getting Britton a spot in various tournaments. There would be some guaranteed money through deals with shoes, clothing or rackets, but this isn’t like baseball contract negotiations.
The biggest question Britton will have to answer will be what environment helps him best develop as a player, whether that’s the regimented college environment or the professional path.
Britton’s return would only enhance the program, which won SEC regular season and tournament titles en route to the Elite Eight this season. Chadwick, blessed with a team full of freshmen, calls the immediate future “very bright.”
From a team perspective, Britton’s individual title keeps the Ole Miss name in the forefront for potential recruits.
“The top players look at the program and want to know once they got to the University of Mississippi how have they improved? What is the program doing to help them improve? What are their results against other schools?” Chadwick said. “Having a person win the NCAA championship is a great boost for our program.”
It’s a great boost for Britton’s career, no doubt. He’ll ask those same questions soon, the ones about his own development. Where can he get stronger and quicker to make the seamless transition from college to pro that he did from high school to college.
“A couple of positive things to consider for him staying,” Chadwick says. “One, he loves the university and loves the guys on the team. Two, he would like nothing more than to leave with a team national championship. That’s the kind of carrot he’s looking at.”
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about the Rebels at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal