UNION — Local athlete Benjamin Loftis Stone will compete in a tennis invitational at Furman University this weekend.
Stone, a sixth-grade honor student at Sims Middle School, was invited to participate based on his state ranking of 75. He has been ranked among 12-year-old boys in South Carolina every year since 2009 when he began earning points at tournaments with a personal best of 47 in 2010.
Some of the tournaments Stone has participated in over the past three years include the Thornblade, Riverside and Furman invitationals, the WestSide Tennis Club tournament in Spartanburg, the Rising Stars tournament Belton and some in his hometown of Union.
“I really enjoy meeting players from other cities,” said Stone. “I usually play singles but I’m always willing to let them partner me with someone and play doubles in a tournament.”
The 12-year-old is attracted to all sports, not just tennis. Five years ago, his mother, Lisa Morrow, had to draw the line on how many extracurricular activities she could allow her son to participate in.
“I told him I could not keep taking him to play multiple sports,” said Morrow. “We were leaving soccer practice early to get to baseball practice late and that was on days when he wasn’t playing golf. I told him he would have to choose one sport.”
Stone decided he wanted to try his hand at tennis so his mother contacted local tennis pro Brad Tate, who coaches area youth.
“I just wanted to try all sports so I thought I’d like to learn to play tennis,” said Stone. “I figured it’s a sport, so it’s fun.”
While tennis might be the only organized sport Stone is focused on at the moment, he fills his days with anything that’s competitive in nature, whether it’s playing card games, trivia or fielding questions as a member of the Sims Sixth Grade Academic Challenge team.
When asked who his favorite tennis player is, Stone quickly answered: “Roger Federer.”
“It’s because of Federer’s attitude on and off of the court,” said Stone. “He doesn’t engage in smack talk, cares about his family, and he is great at all aspects of tennis, as opposed to one dimensional players.”
Stone’s passion for competition goes beyond just playing ball. He plans to make a career as a sports statistician.
“Ben and his brother Brandon love to watch, analyze and discuss sports,” said Morrow. “Before we watch sports at home we have to remind Ben not to analyze every play to the extreme so that we can enjoy hearing some of the game.”
Family vacations usually entail traveling to some type of sporting event. During a trip to Fenway Park, Stone looked on as his favorite player hit a walk-off RBI double in the 10th inning to win the game.
“He just loves being around sports,” Morrow said of her son. “As a parent, I encourage him to consider activities that he can enjoy his entire life, which I think tennis is.”
Morrow thinks her son might have inherited his grandfather’s genes when it comes to athletic abilities.
“My dad Larry Loftis was an athlete,” she said. “He still plays golf and he enjoyed competing in a number of sports over the years, including tennis so maybe that’s where Ben got it.”
Sports Editor Tiffany Grady-Hudgins can be reached by email at email@example.com or by cell at (864) 251-4330.