At age four, before he was even in elementary school, Billy Jones started playing for Oakwood. Thirteen years later, as part of their U-19 Development Academy team, the versatile defender has verbally committed to the University of New Hampshire.
That decision came just this past Saturday, making Jones the third Oakwood player to commit early, joining Saint Louis-bound striker Evan Southern (Glastonbury, Conn.) and UConn-bound striker Chris Alwang (Weston, Conn.)
Jones, who plans to study business and marketing, has big visions for what the Wildcats’ program could become.
“The fact they keep getting better each year, it’s something I want to be a part of,” Jones said. “I could see them being a top 10 team in a matter of a couple years.”
Jones’ confident remark comes eight months removed from UNH advancing to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s third round, where they eventually fell to national runner-up Indiana. The Wildcats also finished last year third in America East.
The 2017 campaign was UNH’s best yet under Marc Hubbard (Durham, N.H.), who will soon enter his fourth year in charge of the program. Hubbard came to UNH after a seven-year coaching stint at Division 2 power Southern New Hampshire University, where he led the Penmen to the 2013 national title.
Jones said Hubbard’s track record and affability were big factors in his commitment.
“You can tell [Hubbard is] close with the players and is their friend off the field,” Jones said. “He said many times that he has us as soccer players and friends. It’s a pretty tight-knit program.”
The entire process was a rather quick one, Jones said. He received interest from Colgate, Lehigh and Central Connecticut State, but UNH’s picked up steam after the Development Academy playoffs in Oceanside, Calif., in June.
From there, Jones went to the Wildcats’ summer camp and visited again last week. UNH offered and the rest, well, is history.
Before joining Hubbard’s up-and-coming program, Jones will look to keep trending upwards while playing for coach Kevin Bacher. In 2017, Oakwood was New England’s sole DA club to make both the U-17 and U-19 playoffs.
“In the past we’ve played an underdog role and that’s how we beat teams,” Jones said. “This year we’re well know because of playoffs, so we want to keep doing what we’re doing and build off of that.”