Athlete to watch: Mikaela Eppard

Mikaela Eppard is now seventh all-time in Bluejays eld goal percentage (Internet Photo)

In the Spring of 2013, a young Mikaela Eppard committed to EC as a basketball recruit, as she finished her high school career with over 1,000 points.

She played for a decently sized suburban school in Colorado called Cherry Creek High School. The school has 96 teams that play in 26 different sports.

Her Cherry Creek Bruins team did not win a state championship, but by the time Eppard graduated she had earned four varsity letters and first team all-league selections her last two years in high school.

In her senior year, she earned second-team all-state honors, and since then has only propelled her game.

Her freshman year at EC was stacked with success as she was named the CCIW Newcomer of the year and again earned second-team recognition, this time earning all-conference honors as a Bluejay.

It is evident that she knows where her game is. She attempted no threes the entire season, instead relying on her size and power inside the paint and around the basket to put up 370 points of the season.

Although young and new to the collegiate athletics learning process, Eppard lead the team in steals as well.

She finished her first year as a Bluejay with a team-leading .539 field goal percentage, averaging 14.2 points per game.

She followed all that up by earning first-team all-conference and all-region honors after starting all 26 games of her second season, now starting every game for the Bluejays.

Jump forward to present day and her progress is evident, as she leads the team in several categories after seven games.

Eppard’s isolation game is where she excels, offensively and defensively. She has been able to help and lead her team in many ways. She attributes this success to her coaches.

“My coaches help me with my one on one game, expanding my game and watching film to see where I need to improve,” she said.

EC sits atop the conference defensive rebounding, in large part to Eppard’s average of 8.3 boards per game.

Individually, she’s leading the entire conference right now in rebounding, as well as eld goal percentage.

Averaging 16.6 points per game now, she is fourth in the conference in scoring, and leads the conference in eld goal percentage at .598 which is a major improvement over her average from last season.

She is one of the most efficient players to ever play for EC, as her 53.9 field goal percentage currently places her in 7th place all-time for the Bluejays.

The only other current EC player to come close to Eppard’s scoring efficiency is Forward Kaela Jones, who is currently holding the number 10 spot in the conference at .482.

Eppard has essentially lead her team to victory in the team’s last three victories, which resulted in her being named the CCIW Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 28, 2016.

In that week alone, she averaged 21.9 points per game and 8.7 rebounds.

She was named MVP of the Colorado College Rock Mountain Tournament, which served as EC’s first tournament of the season.

EC was 6-0 before falling to Wheaton College, which had been the first time in thirty years the team had started the season so successfully, and at least three of those victories can largely be attributed to Eppard’s commitment to her team.

In fact, even though Eppard’s game is most successful in iso situations, she says her favorite part of basketball is the team efforts and the team’s success overall.

“I love the team aspect of sports, it’s why I play,” she said.

Although she is a great individual player, her contributions as a teammate are largely the reason that Elmhurst has the second most wins overall, only falling behind to the defending conference champs, Augustana College.

“Having a whole group of people to lean on for support and being able to win together and lose together,” she added as being part of her own enjoyment of team-play.

It was a team loss to Wheaton, as the Bluejays shot 34.9 percent overall, while Wheaton shot 51.9 percent.

Eppard added only 10 points and five boards, well shy of her average.

She says that it is part of her job to help the team move for- ward from losses, showing that she is not afraid to do more than just score points and snatch down rebounds.

“I think I help my team win by being a positive communicator and getting excited when things go well and help us move on when things don’t go our way,” she said.

The lady Bluejays will have their hands full when they host the undefeated Augustana Vikings on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Eppard reminds us that sportsmanship and being a part of something bigger than oneself is a big part of the game, and that it is not all about wins and losses right now.

“There is always someone there. The excitement it all brings is something you can’t replicate,” she said. “It is pure joy and being able to have that experience [and] those same emotions as a team is awesome.”

Passion for the game, love for her team, and skill on the floor will continue to propel Eppard’s game, which is why she is this week’s athlete to watch.