It’s not that Jayden Epps isn’t flattered by the check-in, he’s just not so thirsty for attention that he’s willing to say a school is interested in him because they shot him one text.
“I’m just different,” said Epps, a combo guard at King’s Fork (Suffolk, Va.). “If it’s genuine interest that’s different, but I’m not mentioning a school that only reached out once just because they have a big name. When it’s real, you’ll know. I’m more worried about getting to work.”
Such is the mindset of an elite player in the initial stages of ascension.
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“I pride myself in how I prepare,” Epps said. “Coming into the summer I had the mindset to kill everyone in front of me whenever I step onto the court. I try to focus on proving things to myself because I’m my own worst critic.”
Still, getting to that point mentally was a process.
Epps said he used to set out to prove critics wrong with his production; they say he can’t pass, he averages seven assists a game, they say he can’t play in a system, he runs the halfourt offense like a well-oiled machine, they say he can’t dominate the way he currently is when he gets to the college level, he earns scholarships from high major schools in abundance.
Then one day he had a moment of clarity; he noticed as he proved naysayers wrong, they would move the proverbial goalpost on their critiques adding fresh knocks to his game.
“That’s when I realized that what people say doesn’t matter,” Epps said. “It’s not about proving everyone wrong, it’s about being true to who I am and improving on that. I have coaches and trainers that I trust that give me positive feedback and I take that to heart. Other than that, I play my game.”
Last season, Epps dominated the competition to the tune of 28 points a game for the Bulldogs. When the pandemic sidelined the summer circuit, Epps concentrated on individual workouts and strengthened his all-around game.
Now he leads the Seen Circuit, an elite fall league in Virginia, in scoring at 25 points a game.
As a result, Memphis and Virginia have picked up their recruitment, while Virginia Tech, Florida, Texas A&M, N.C. State, Georgetown, Ole Miss, Clemson, Pittsburgh and Maryland have extended offers.
Epps received his first offer from Hampton the summer after his sixth grade year.
“I want everyone to recruit me because I want every option on the table so I can make the best decision when the time comes,” Epps said. “The only thing that I can control is how hard I go when it’s time to play. That’s why I feel like I’m the best point guard in my class. I’m gonna do what I’m supposed to do whoever is put in front of me, and that’s on both ends of the floor.”
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And therein lies Epps’ point on what separates him from other elite guards who focus more on the offensive end of the floor.
“I’m coming at you on offense, for sure, but I’m coming just as hard on defense,” Epps said. “That’s the difference with me. I don’t care what your name is, what you’re ranked, how many followers you have on Instagram, none of that. You have to play just like I do. And I’m coming. I’m coming.”