City of London Academy and Southwark Pride take their tally up to four players signing full athletic scholarships to NCAA Division One institutes with the latest Emerald Ekpiteta committing to Niagara.
The 5ft 11″ Forward has maybe gone quietly under the radar but has been one of Coach Jackson Gibbons best players for a number of seasons. We got a chance to find out a bit more from Emerald and her scholarship.
1. How does it feel to get a USA scholarship?
I feel overwhelmed! I’ve always wanted to play college basketball in the USA, but I never really thought I was good enough. To get a division 1 scholarship, I feel ecstatic, it truly shows that hard work really does pay off. I’m as pleased for myself as I am for the people around me, the joy and encouragement that so many friends and family have shown through this opportunity has really made me feel good about my decision. I still can’t believe I’m not going to have to pay back a student loan, but I’m getting a first class education and getting to play ball, it’s perfect for me
2. How did the process go of finding a school in the USA?
Our Academy took us to AAU tournaments in America in 2015 and 2016, which allowed us to play in front of college coaches, which was a great experience. Coach Jackson also used his network to expose my abilities and get in contact with coaches. I never really knew what it would take or how much work actually goes into the process of finding a school, there is a lot to go through and it’s not something I would have been comfortable doing alone.
I was lucky enough to have Coach for support, and although I know he won’t take credit, Coach Steve Vear was also supporting too I’m sure of it. You really do need people who know what they are doing as you can easily end up in the wrong situation, you meet all kinds of characters along the way and it was good to have support from my two coaches so I didn’t get too high or too low, and it’s like there’s no one in America they don’t know between them so there was a lot of choice, it’s crazy.
It took me only one visit to decide that Niagara is the best place for me, the coaching staff have a vision for my career, they made sure I understood that the program is heading in the right direction and they want me to be a big part of that, although they will be patient with my development. I literally walked on campus, met the staff, the team and an academic advisor, looked at my mum and we both knew it was for me, so I decided to commit and not take any of my other visits.
3. What are your goals now at Niagara?
My goals at Niagara is to be better than I am today, improve mentally and physically. Develop my skills and turn my weaknesses into strengths, not just in basketball but also academically, as I plan to major in Criminal Justice.
When being recruited I was often told about my ‘upside’, I think working with the coaches at Niagara I’m going to improve a lot, so many people have told me I have the potential to improve a great deal, I’m going to trust that and work hard to make it happen
4. And finally, anyone you want to thank?
I would like to thank my family, I have older twin brothers who have always supported me. In particular my mum thought as she’s constantly supported me and believed in me, I feel so blessed to have a mum like her, she’s genuinely sacrificed so much to get me to this point and I feel my success is equally her success, she’s such a strong woman and a big part of my motivation is to make her proud.
I would also like to thank Coach Jackson as he’s worked so hard for me to get this opportunity and never gave up on me, even when people said I wasn’t good enough. Honestly, I haven’t met a coach who cares more or works harder for his players, he has a way of explaining things to you, when he talks you feel like you can conquer anything. I won’t lie it’s not always easy playing for Coach, he will really push you and there’s always a lesson to be learned along the way, but you know everything is done to get you to this point and that he really cares, it’s definitely been worth it.
I’d also like to thank City of London Academy, I transferred from my 6th form after year 12, it was a risk taking year 13 at CoLA as my school was brilliant and I’d been successful there since year 7, I was apprehensive at first but my mum said go for it. It’s honestly the best decision I could have made. It’s not for everyone, you will be pushed both on and off the court, but the whole experience is what I hoped for and the Basketball Academy is genuinely one big family with a common goal.
I would also like to thank my teammates and various coaches such as, Coach Steve (I know he helped more than he’ll admit lol), Coach Marvin, Coach Sterling, Coach Phil and Coach Dan, who have all been a cornerstone to the player and person I am today!
We want to wish Emerald all the success at Niagara as she joins even more UK female ballers over in the USA.