TASTY TIDBITSJC’s Epperson wins top rookie honor

Final Top Fives; All-Area teams next week; spring has sprung

Amissa Epperson toiled in virtual obscurity during her basketball playing days at McNair Academic in Jersey City.
It’s hard for anyone 6-foot-2 to fly under the radar in girls’ basketball, but Epperson did just that, even though she played for the Cougars all four years.
When it came time to make a college decision, Epperson wanted to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, one of the nation’s best schools for art, design and architecture.
You see, Epperson has always been destined for a life in art.
“My Dad noticed that I needed colored pencils and crayons from when I was a little girl,” said Epperson, a Jersey City native. “I noticed I was drawing a lot in fourth grade, when I was doodling in my notebooks.”
Back then, Epperson was drawing storybook characters and features.
“I had things like a girl and her dragon as partners in crime,” Epperson said. “I’m still trying to figure out what I was doing there.”
But by the time Epperson enrolled at McNair Academic, she had a career in mind.
“I was doing things like paintings of the Netherlands,” Epperson said. “I was doing work with oils, with ink, sketches in colored pencils. You name it.”
And yes, Epperson played basketball.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to play in college,” Epperson said. “I really wanted to keep up with it because I liked basketball. But I knew I was going into the arts.”
And Pratt was the choice for Epperson.
“I liked the fact that there was a campus,” Epperson said. “Most of the other art schools are just buildings. Pratt has trees and a lawn. It was right for me.”
After Epperson enrolled at Pratt last fall, she wasn’t sure if she was going to play.
“I wasn’t sure if my workload in school was going to be too much,” Epperson said. “In the beginning, I wasn’t going to play. But then I went to the courts in October and a girl there told me that I should play.”
As it turned out, those words of encouragement turned out to be a blessing, because Epperson went on to have a sensational freshman season at Pratt.
Last week, Epperson was named as the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year for her exploits this season, averaging 11.9 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per contest and a league-leading four blocked shots per game.
“I am definitely surprised by it all,” Epperson said. “I’m also definitely pleased. I was Rookie of the Week one week and I thought that was nice. But after a while, I was Rookie of the Week again and I couldn’t really believe it.”
Epperson was also named to the All-HVIAC Team with teammate Anna Bryce.
“There’s definitely more pressure on me to keep it going, so I’m going to improve a lot,” Epperson said. “I just don’t want to stay here at this level. I’m going to keep pushing to get better.”
Pratt head coach Michael Williams is pleased with Epperson’s development.
“She’s already accomplished as a freshman, but once Amissa’s basketball IQ develops even higher, she will be an unstoppable force in the HVIAC,” Williams said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Amissa will gradually improve every year. She’s on the road to becoming one of the most dominant women basketball players at Pratt, and in the HVIAC, before she graduates.”
Epperson said that it has been tough balancing her schoolwork with her basketball duties.
“Some weeks are harder than others, but it’s all worth it,” Epperson said. “We have practices in the morning at 7 a.m. It’s interesting, but it’s also fun. I get my workout done early and I feel ready for the day.”
Epperson has an apartment in Brooklyn and rides her bike 10 minutes every day to school.
She wants to eventually study 3-D animation at Pratt, with the ultimate goal doing work for one of the big studios like Pixar or Dreamworks.
“Right now, it’s a foundation year, where you are taught a lot of the basic skills of being an artist,” Epperson said. “But this is what I wanted. I wanted to go to a good art school and I really wanted to play basketball. So it worked out really well.”
And what are some of the little things that Epperson has been working on?
“I like a lot of historical stories, so I’m doing something about a group of kids growing up in New York in the 1910s,” Epperson said. “It’s a good mix of kids. I’m trying to represent what McNair taught me, to be diverse. That’s one of the best things I got from the school.”…
Here are the final Hudson Reporter basketball Top Fives for the 2015-2016 season:
Final Hudson Reporter High School Boys’ Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (32-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (21-4). 3. Union City (23-6). 4. St. Peter’s Prep (15-10). 5. Snyder (17-9)…
Final Hudson Reporter High School Girls’ Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (20-3). 2. Lincoln (20-6). 3. Secaucus (22-8). 4. Marist (18-9). 5. North Bergen (16-8)…
Next week, the Hudson Reporter All-Area basketball teams will be announced, as will the official start to the spring seasons with baseball and softball previews. One season ends and another begins. It’s always that way in the spring. – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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