Russellville tennis standout signs with Gadsden State Community College

Russellville High School tennis standout Ethan Howard made his college plans official during a scholarship signing ceremony Feb. 28 at the RHS field house.

Howard, a senior on this year’s Russellville squad, will join the roster at Gadsden State Community College when his playing days as a Golden Tiger are finished. Competing as a No. 1 singles player in matches so far this season, Howard has already gotten off to a successful start this year on the court.

“We’re looking forward to watching him progress and grow on the tennis court,” Gadsden State coach Buster Stewart said at the signing. “He’s already a good citizen, so he’s going to continue that, but moving on in the academic world as well, where he can provide for himself and his family somewhere down the road.”

Howard said several things that appealed to him about Gadsden State. “It’s close to home, only two hours away,” he noted. “They have a good team, and the coach has some connections in the upper level of tennis, and their education is pretty good for a community college,”

Howard only started playing tennis about three years ago, and he said one factor has driven how his game has changed from then until now: “My work ethic. When I first started playing, I didn’t know how to hold a racket, and I had never hit a tennis ball before. I had never held a racket, and I figured out that I loved it, and I started grinding, and I started working hard.”

Ben Phillips is in his first year coaching the boys at Russellville, and he said he saw something special in Howard from the beginning.

“I see him at practice, and he will finish his drills, and I’ll see him down there with some of the alternates, teaching them how to serve and teaching them a better second serve,” Phillips said. “I haven’t told him to do that, and he’s kind of taken it upon himself because he wants to be better and he wants the whole team to be better.

“He wants this program, when he leaves, to be better than when he started.”

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