Freshman Payton Jim On’s rise to the ILH throne

Freshman Payton Jim On won the ILH boys singles tennis title. Photo courtesy of Punahou tennis.

Between all the Paytons and Peytons of the universe, this one might make quite a mark in the tennis world.

Payton Jim On of Punahou won the Interscholastic League of Honolulu boys singles championship last week, and he is just a freshman. Jim On defeated Andre Ajed of Mid-Pacific 6-3, 6-2 to cap a busy week in the postseason tourney.

The top-seeded player defeated Pohakea Mawyer of Kamehameha 6-0, 6-0 and Have Hepton of Mid-Pacific 6-2, 6-3 to reach the semifinal round. He outlasted fourth seed Scott Yamamoto of ‘Iolani 6-2, 3-6, (8) to advance.

“Scott is very smart. He’s a senior. I played him earlier in the season and won in two. I knew he was getting stronger,” Jim On said. “He was a heavy favorite coming into the season. I had to keep it up. I play against his younger brother. (Scott) was No. 1 in 14s and 16s.”

Yamamoto had momentum after taking the second set.

“I just knew I had to fight on every point, stay in my game. In the second game, I was off my game a little bit. In the tiebreaker, I was able to stay within myself. This is it, all or nothing and I hit the hardest forehand I’ve hit in awhile,” Jim On said. “That was in the last two points.”

Ajed is another friend and opponent, a frenemy. The unseeded sophomore upset third-seeded Tsubasa Okada of Punahou 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals.

“I know Andre and we’ve talked about playing in the ILH championship one day. I traveled with Andre to many national events. He’s really strong, so in my head, I thought it would be tough, but the finals took three days to complete,” Jim On said.

Payton Jim On of Punahou serves against Andre Ajed of Mid-Pacific in the ILH boys singles tennis final. Photo courtesy of Punahou tennis.

The site of the tourney, Punahou, was hit often by rain, forcing the delay.

“I don’t think I was lucky, but I was able to take the momentum each day because I’m a fast starter compared to Andre,” Jim On said. “The first day, I was up 5-3, then it rained. The second day, the warmup was longer than the set. The third day, he won two games, but I had momentum and won five games in a row.”

His first name turned out to be a standard he embraces.

Walter Payton. I think he’s a great athlete. My dad (Barry) said he was a better person than he was an athlete,” Jim On said.

Payton Jim On’s Lockdown Staples

Top 3 movies/shows

1. “Golden Time” (Netflix).

2. “The Hangover, Part III.”

“I liked part 3 better than 2. I like Chow as a character.”

3. “Stranger Things” (Netflix).

Top 3 food/snack/drink

1. Udon at TsuruTonTan.

“My dad looks online for the best deals. He came back with the noodles and it was huge.”

2. Tomoe Sakura Arare.

3. Hawaiian Hurricane Popcorn.


“I like mom (Cora)’s caramel cuts. It’s like brownies, but it’s caramel. My sister (Megan) is the favorite child, so when she comes home from college, when she’s about halfway back from Chicago, my mom will time it, and then it’ll be baked by the time she gets home, wrapped in foil to keep it warm.”

Top 3 music artists

1. Drake/Kanye West/Lil Wayne/Eminem – “Forever”

2. Kolohe Kai – “Dream Girl”

3. Avicii – “Broken Arrows”

New life skill

“I partially cleaned my bedroom.”

Also: We used a batting cage net in our garage to hit balls into, kind of in the driveway. My dad would feed me a ball and I’d hit it into the net. We tried to get I think every day was about 300 balls. During quarantine four or five days. There was nothing better to do.

GPA: 3.8

Favorite tennis player: David Nalbandian.

“He retired. He was extremely talented, very simple. I like the way he played the game. It wasn’t like extraordinary like (Rafael) Nadal’s famous over-the-head forehand or (Novak) Djokovic’s crazy accuracy. He beat Nadal, Djokovic, (Roger) Federer all in a row. He went from juniors to pros, overweight. He’s considered the greatest waste of talent in tennis of all time. I can’t agree or disagree. I thought he was playing at his full potential, but he got injured so much. He now takes up rally racing. That’s in Argentina, where he’s from.”

What would you like to ask him?

“I’d ask him how was your stroke so smooth and compact, with so much power?” He would probably say, put more time into it. Everyone’s game is different.”

Did you know?

Payton’s older brother, Austin, was a quarterback and pitched at ‘Iolani. Austin Jim On is now at UC Hastings College of the Law.

Shout outs

“Shout outs to my parents (Barry, Cora) and my whole family. I thank my grandparents (Brian and Beverly Jim On, and Irene Wakatsuki), and I want to thank (Mid-Pacific) coach Shannon Alcon and Punahou coach Ikaika Jobe. And Rong Ma (private coach) and John Dye (of Punahou). Coach Shannon started me in tennis.

“Coach Carolyn Katayama actually started me when I was 8. She asked what hand are you, and I said I don’t know. I’m a lefty in tennis and a righty in everything else.”


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