Paul Jones’ latest culinary hit: gingerbread cake with caramel buttercream frosting.
The home-schooling advocate isn’t missing out on home economics class and maybe there’s room in the schedule for more tennis instead.
Jones, 17, won an individual 4A state title and helped lead the Indians to their first team title since 2012, but his Cheyenne Mountain experience was limited to the courts.
“No one knew me there,” he laughed.
While other seniors finish up their second-to-last semester at Cheyenne Mountain, Jones is rooming with teammate Oliver Muhl at Advantage Tennis Academy in Irvine, California, playing against some of the top talent in his age group, looking at colleges and honing his game.
Former Cheyenne Mountain assistant coach Kevin Lynch called Southern California a “shark’s den” for tennis, where the best players in the country convene regularly and tournaments are every weekend.
Jones is finishing up high school online at Colorado Preparatory Academy, giving him the flexibility he needs to play tennis off and on all day. He hasn’t experienced brick-and-mortar education since seventh grade, when he became the second member of his family to leave Manitou Springs public school because of bullying.
“It’s so small,” Jones said. “Small things travel and then everyone knows.
“I don’t necessarily regret leaving Manitou at all. It might have been nice to have more of a social life, but I’ll get that in college. I think this was probably the best path for me.”
In addition to helping Jones and Muhl win state titles at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, Lynch served as something of a guide, having attended a tennis academy between high school and college and tried his luck as a pro before injuries took their toll.
“He is way further down the road than I was,” Lynch said. “Paul has the absolute perfect body type and mentality to play. He has one of the most beautiful strokes.”
Jones wants to play at a Division I or II school, then take stock — decide whether the dream is still feasible. Family, scholarships and local programs have helped him get this far. He knows advancing in the sport he loves comes with a price tag.
“(Pro tennis) is a very difficult and very expensive lifestyle that you’re 99.9% going to lose money. I have to be realistic as well,” Jones said.
“I’ve heard only the top 50, 100 players in the world can make a living off it.”
If it doesn’t work out, he’ll have a degree. He’s talked up home schooling and seen several, including Muhl, jump on board.
Jones is concerned college will bring adjustments, but he’s been very good at managing his time for a long time. Cooking won’t be a problem either.
“He’s down to earth and he’s a leader. He gets it,” Lynch said. “He’s very mature for his age.
“I hope he can absolutely go all the way.”
• Paul Jones has a gofundme account to support his tennis ambitions.