Jayden Epps is the newest member of the Providence College basketball family. A 6-foot-2 combo guard from Suffolk, Virginia, Epps supplied a verbal commitment to Ed Cooley’s program on Monday.
“You’re getting one of the most competitive kids you’ll ever want to meet. You’re getting a gym rat, a coachable kid and a winner,” was how Rick Hite, head basketball coach at King’s Fork High School, described Epps.
Scouting services list Epps as a four-star member of the Class of 2022, though the option does exist for him to enter PC’s fold for the 2021-22 season and join a backcourt that includes current members David Duke, A.J. Reeves, Jared Bynum, Brycen Goodine and Alyn Breed. Straight from the youngster himself, Epps said no final decision has been made about his basketball status beyond the current academic year.
“I don’t have to make up my mind by a certain date. Coach Cooley told me to take my time, but I would assume it won’t be long,” Epps said when reached Monday afternoon.
Epps noted that the prospect of reuniting with his King’s Fork High teammates for one final season is one reason why he would consider staying in Virginia for one more year before heading to Providence.
“Our [2020-21 season] was canceled,” Hite said. “Honestly, we probably had the best team in the state of Virginia. We got as high as No. 28 in the country without even playing. There was disappointment, but the kids still found a way to be productive. We played under our club name, but it wasn’t the same. It didn’t change Jayden’s work ethic, however. As a matter of fact, it only enhanced it.”
Added Epps, “I love my teammates. It would mean a lot to be able to play with them again.”
The courtship between the Friars and Epps took shape long before multiple Power Five schools identified the youngster as a must-have talent. PC assistant coach Ivan Thomas did his homework in identifying Epps as a priority.
“Coach Thomas and I go back a long time,” Hite said, noting there were several Virginia schoolboy hoop encounters when Hite was coaching at Petersburg and Thomas was at Kecoughtan High. “I believe [Thomas] was the first one to tell Jayden that he was a college player. That was when Jayden was in ninth grade.”
Epps saw his stock rise after a 2019-20 season in which he averaged 26 points and was named Virginia’s 4A Player of the Year. When Epps announced his top six schools on Dec. 21, the company Providence kept included Florida, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M and N.C. State. From that list, the competition for Epps jumped a few levels when one of college basketball’s blueblood programs — Kansas — extended a scholarship offer in February.
His stock may have been rising, yet Epps remained loyal to what he was hearing from the Friars.
“He’s not going to get overwhelmed by bigger names. Providence is a big name. He understands they play great competition,” Hite said. “They talked about the things that Jayden wanted the most. He’s big into the family aspect. He’s big into development. Ultimately, that’s what won out. They didn’t promise him anything, but the kid wants to work and prove himself. The chip on his shoulder and coach Cooley’s shoulder, it just matches."
“Our relationship has been strong for a long time. Coach Cooley would check in every day. That was important to me,” said Epps, who informed Cooley of his decision two weeks ago. “There were a lot of big schools, but I knew where I wanted to be … what type of environment I wanted to be in. That was at Providence.”
Basketball-wise, Epps takes pride in scoring and facilitating.
“Making your teammates better is so important … anything that’s going to help you win games,” he said.
Per his high school coach, Epps is just as invested when it comes to getting after it on the defensive end.
“He defends the whole game. That’s incredible. Ninety percent of the scorers, that’s all they want to do,” Hite said. “Big East guards are going to have trouble because he’s going to guard them.”