Athlete Spotlight: Rebecca Ripley ‘17 - New Hampton (NH) Girls Basketball
by Nate Weitzer for Mass Prep Stars
Some players are blessed with natural abilities beyond that of their peers.
Some have the necessary basketball lineage and support system to elicit the most out of that potential, but those who can combine those factors with a steady work ethic and a drive to succeed can join the ranks of the truly elite.
New Hampton senior Rebecca Ripley is widely recognized as the top female basketball player in all of New England. The University of Miami commit has won dozens of titles in the AAU ranks, led her teams at every level, and drawn the praise of countless coaches on her way through the NEPSAC and AAU circuits.
Where does she derive the motivation to succeed against the toughest competition the country has to offer? According to the Ipswich native, it’s all about showing that a small-town girl from suburban Massachusetts can make it to the big time.
"Coming from a small town in Massachusetts where basketball isn't really known too well gave me some extra motivation,” Ripley explained about her upbringing in Ipswich, which happens to be the same town that produced NBA player Michael Carter-Williams to put it on the recruiting map.
“When [MCW] was younger a lot of people doubted him and the same thing went for me,” Ripley added. “So, seeing him grow to the player that he is definitely bumped up my confidence because I thought I could do it as well."
She actually grew up down the street from Carter-Williams and spent significant time working out with his mother, Amanda Carter-Zegarowski, who played at Salem State University and manages MCW to this day.
Ripley’s parents and grandparents also enjoyed extensive basketball careers, as her own mother starred at Gloucester High before moving on to UMass-Dartmouth, so she recalled how she had a basketball in her hands as early as she could remember.
“They basically raised me and taught me how to play at the same time,” Ripley explained.
As a fifth grader, Ripley decided to test her skills on the AAU circuit, joining the ranks of Visionary Basketball Club (VBC), where she learned a lot of the fundamentals of team basketball.
After a few years, she moved on to the highly successful Boston Showstoppers program and by the time she was in high school, she was playing for the northeast regional power Mass Rivals.
At each stop, Ripley played against tougher competition and her confidence grew. She led the Showstoppers to a Division 1 State Title in 2011 and won two more D1 titles while leading the Mass Rivals.
Recently, she joined the New York Gauchos and began playing on the EYBL circuit against some of the best players in the country.
“I’ve learned a lot from every AAU program, but the biggest move I made was to the Gauchos,” Ripley asserted. “I definitely started to realize how good I was there, because I was playing against the best players in the country including girls on the USA team as a sophomore in high school. That's when it really hit me that I could compete with anyone.”
With her confidence at sky-high levels, Ripley returned to her preparatory school and new home in Stratham, New Hampshire. She had already made waves as a freshman on the New Hampton varsity team, but took a significant leap forward in her junior season after honing her skills over the summer in New York.
Ripley averaged 15.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game while leading the Huskies to a 21-7 record and a New England Prep School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Class A semifinals appearance.
The 6-foot junior showcased her versatility by playing all five positions during an injury-plagued season for New Hampton and started to feel more comfortable at preparatory school.
"Physically I was capable of doing a lot, but mentally, my confidence wasn't that high,” Ripley said about her first two years at New Hampton. “Moving away from home as a 14-year-old was tough and it was a little overwhelming but the coaches training me, changes to my diet, and consistent work at the great facilities at school helped me improve a lot.”
This year, Ripley has paced a senior-laded New Hampton squad to a 10-2 record with averages of 21.2 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. In the process, she’s drawn the praise of first-year head coach and former University of Vermont assistant Brett Benzio.
"It's a coaches' dream,” Benzio said about Ripley’s ability to play any position on the floor. “I put [Ripley] at the four and she creates shots for the 3 or 5. It’s great that she can contribute in so many different ways.”
Benzio became familiar with Ripley’s talents while she was coaching at UVM, but admitted that her program never set their sights on someone of her transcendent talent.
Now that she’s seeing the top prospect play every day, Benzio is even more impressed by Ripley.
"This year [Ripley]’s really stepped up with her leadership,” Benzio effused. “Now she's very dynamic on both ends of the floor and able to score at all three levels.”
Benzio continued, "She’s a great shooter and not afraid of the big moment, but her biggest moments have actually been in practices. Our games have generally been pretty smooth for us because of how hard we practice and that’s the type of results you get when your best player doesn’t just show up for games, she practices as hard as anyone.”
Rebecca Ripley ‘17 and family at Signing Day - New Hampton School (credit New Hampton)
In three recent games, Ripley put up 25, 35, and 17 points in comfortable wins, and she hopes to maintain that production throughout the regular and postseason in the hopes of bringing a NEPSAC title to her adopted home at New Hampton School.
"We haven't won a NEPSAC title since I’ve been here but that's always been my goal from the day I stepped on campus,” Ripley said. .”This is the year that I think we have the best shot."
With fellow seniors Lala Ocasio (committed to New Haven), Kaitlyn Petrocelli and star junior Eva Hodgson leading the way for New Hampton, Ripley’s title hopes are well founded.
Regardless of how she finishes her preparatory school career, she certainly has a bright future at the next level and aims to make Miami’s coaches proud for creating a strong relationship with her since she was a sophomore.
"[Ripley]’s just a very versatile and unique player that she's kind of on her own in terms of comparisons,” Benzio added. “She's kind of flown under the radar because she's been up here in New Hampshire but now she's going to go down to Miami and she’s going to show the world who she is."
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