Cheshire Academy junior De’Naya Rippey has grown up in a basketball family. Her father Deron Sr. was a standout player at CA, while her younger brother Deron Jr. has shined at Blair Academy in New Jersey.
Rippey started playing as a youngster in Brooklyn, New York, but at age 9, she chose to stop and switch activities to dancing.
“Basketball was my life, but I didn’t want to play anymore at that time,” recalled Rippey.
She found success performing all styles of dance in shows, but three years ago, Rippey felt that she was ready to pick up a basketball again and be coached hard.
“I had to see the game (through) a different lens,” recalled Rippey. “Basketball isn’t easy. It gets harder every single day and I’m ready for that pressure now.”
“I said that, ‘If you want to come back, you have to be all in,’” recalled Deron Rippey, Sr. “She said that, ‘I really want to go to a place where I could compete on the highest level.’”
With her father being a 1993 graduate of CA, Rippey chose to leave her high school (Urban Assembly) two years ago and then reclassify to attend prep school in Cheshire.
“A lot of people where I come from don’t get to come to places like Cheshire Academy and have an opportunity to play sports and get an education,” stated Rippey. “My dad told me that Cheshire provided a lot for him and changed his life. He told me that he didn’t have the same opportunities I had growing up.”
Deron, Sr. believes that coming to CA was a game-changer for him. After cracking 1,000 points at the school, he went on to play at East Carolina University in North Carolina.
“I get emotional when people ask me about Cheshire. I think about some of the obstacles I was faced with throughout my life,” said Deron Rippey, Sr, a member of the CA Hall of Fame. “Cheshire gave me the opportunity as an African American kid coming from the city. I got to meet new brothers and sisters. It gave me the tools to be the person I am today.”
Like her dad before her, Rippey is now making an impact for the Cats and drawing interest from the college level. This winter, she had a stretch of 30-plus-points games for CA girls’ basketball.
Under second-year head coach Caroline Brasa, CA has won six of their last seven games to improve to 7-5.
In a highlight this year, Rippey returned to Brooklyn for the Rose Classic Super Jam.
“For me growing up, all I knew was Brooklyn. Coming to Cheshire showed me that there is more to basketball,” explained Rippey, a guard who is averaging 25 points and 14 rebounds per game this season. “Everything I’ve done here translated to going back to New York.”
At the Super Jam, Rippey received MVP honors, but she cares more about the team’s performance than individual accolades.
“I’m a very humble player,” said Rippey. “I’m helping the team in the best way I can. I don’t go in thinking we are going to win or lose.”
In coming to CA for the 2021-22 year, she felt that there was an adjustment period on the court.
“I had to get to know my teammates,” recalled Rippey. “It was pretty hard. Everyone has a different style.”
Since Brasa was also starting out as a new coach at CA, Rippey felt a connection with her.
“It meant an opportunity to gain her trust,” stated Rippey. “We got close quickly.”
“I definitely think that we’ve been able to bond with that (experience) from different angles,” explained Brasa. “It has been great to watch her grow as a player. We’ve talked about her growth in court awareness.”
Brasa feels that Rippey’s impact goes beyond her offense.
“Scoring the basketball is great, but I think her intensity and defense are her biggest strengths,” stated Brasa.
Rippey has liked building chemistry with teammates this season.
“Our relationships have grown since we started to now,” reflected Rippey. “Our coach has taught us more now.”
Rippey credits her father for instilling a hard work ethic in her.
“Every day, he pushes me to become a better player,” said Rippey. “He trains me harder than anything.”
While basketball is her passion, Rippey has enjoyed displaying her versatility at CA. Like in basketball, she plays volleyball for Brasa.
Last fall, Rippey shared the Most Improved Award with Kayla Murphy.
“When I came to Cheshire Academy, I hadn’t played volleyball before,” reflected Rippey. “This (sport) puts me in the mindset that I can’t stop moving. I like being athletic and trying new things.”
Brasa likes making multiple connections with athletes. She has enjoyed seeing Rippey shine in a sport that she didn’t herself playing.
“I think it is really fun,” said Brasa. “It has been good to watch her connect the dots.”
In the spring, Rippey also contributes in track and field. She has found success in the 100- and 200-meters, as well as the 4x100-meter relay and high jump.
“Watching De’Naya play multiple sports is great,” stated Deron Rippey, Sr. “De’Naya works hard. She is driven and determined.”
Deron, Sr. has also loved seeing his daughter join the Black Student Union and speak at a diversity and inclusion event.
“She is becoming a better person,” said Deron Rippey, Sr.
Rippey thinks it is great to share her school with students from around the world.
“I get to celebrate other people and learn their religion and cultures,” explained Rippey. “I get to teach people about what it is to be me.”
Along with being part of the CA community, Rippey hones her basketball skills on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) level. This year, she will play her last season for New Heights in New York City.
“It is harder competition,” stated Rippey. “There is a lot of competition and different skill sets in AAU basketball.”
She feels that having that exposure will help draw interest from colleges and follow in her father’s footsteps. Rippey has heard from schools, but hasn’t made decisions yet.
“I’m using this year as an advantage,” said Rippey. “I’m trying to push through. I’m grateful to be at Cheshire Academy and I’m not going to let anything stop me from where I need to be.”
“We are trying to put together every resource we have to have her play on the highest level,” added Deron Rippey Sr. “She is going to continue to work hard and when it all done, I think she will reach her potential.”
Brasa looks forward to Rippey getting better next season.
“I’m very excited about that,” stated Brasa. “If this year is any indication, it will be fun seeing what she can do.”