Makayla Epps jersey retired at Marion County, just like her dad’s

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, December 27, 2017


LEBANON  — Anthony Epps watched patiently and quietly as his daughter, Makayla Epps, had her basketball jersey recently retired at Marion County High School.

Several years ago the school did the same thing for him because, like his daughter, he also led Marion to a state championship. He was not the prolific scorer that his daughter was — she finished with over 3,300 points and her senior season Marion was unbeaten.

But once the ceremony ended, he walked over to his daughter, hugged her and gave her a kiss on the head. It was similar to what he had done during his Senior Day Ceremony at UK in 1997 when Makayla went to center court with him holding her in his arms.

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“It was just special for her and me,” Anthony Epps said. “But knowing she also graduated was even more meaningful.”

Makaya Epps had put off going overseas to play after her first season in the WNBA to return to Kentucky to finish her social work degree. She graduated from UK about 24 hours before she had her jersey retired.

“I have to say the graduation is the main thing. That’s the huge deal,” Angela Mattingly, Makayla Epps’ mother, said. “So is the jersey retirement, though. She worked so hard for that. But graduation? What’s the old story. Ball will end, but you can never take an education away.”

Makayla Epps earned all-Southeastern Conference honors three years in a row. She finished her career with 1,790 points (fifth most in UK history) along with 504 rebounds, 408 assists (seventh all-time) and 131 steals. She shot 46.1 percent from the field in her career and 71.9 percent at the foul line. She’s the only player in program history to rank top five in scoring and top seven in assists.

Her mother says having Epps going overseas to play in Russia  “terrifies” her and she is thankful she decided to finish her degree before solely concentrating on basketball.

“We had discussed several times about graduating before she went overseas to play,” Mattingly said. “I encouraged her to get her degree completed but she also wanted to do it. She didn’t want to take a break and then try to come back to finish her degree. She only had one semester left. There was no doubt she would eventually get it done, but I am glad she went ahead and finished it first.”

Epps accomplished a lot at Marion County, too. She was the 2013 Kentucky Miss Basketball, 2013 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year, a three-time all-state honoree and the school’s first McDonald’s All-American. She led the top-ranked Lady Knights to a 39-0 record in 2013 and Marion County’s first state title. She averaged 23 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 steals and 5.5 rebounds per game as her senior year. She finished her career with 3,321 points, sixth most in state history.

Makayla Epps admits Marion County will always be home to her no matter where her basketball career might take her. That’s why she was glad to see so many fans come out for her jersey retirement ceremony.

“I love Marion County. That’s never going to change,” she said.

It likely will also never change that the graduation/jersey retirement weekend will be one she’ll never forget.

“It was such a big weekend in my life,” Epps said. “It could be the biggest of my life. Graduating from UK one day and then the next day getting your high school jersey retired. All the games I have played, I never got to celebrate things like graduating from UK or having a jersey retired.

“I had plenty of bumps along the way. I knew it all would not be easy. I grew up with dreams of playing basketball. I never wanted to be a pro or play Division I basketball. I just wanted to play basketball and I am thankful I got to do that and for where I am now. I am enjoying the path I am on and I’m just thankful to have had the chances I did and to have had so many people rooting for me along the way.”