CWU adds another Pepper to their illustrious history

Courtesy of CWU Athletics

Courtesy of CWU Athletics

Gabriel Strasbaugh, Staff Reporter

A family tradition continues at CWU. Selah forward Noah Pepper has committed to the Wildcats at the end of his senior year. This is the third man of the Pepper family to put their stamp on CWU’s men’s basketball. Both his father Ryan Pepper, and his uncle, Jason Pepper, are inducted into the CWU Athletic Hall of Fame. 

The 6-foot-4-inch forward follows directly in his father’s footsteps with some big shoes to fill as his father still holds the all-time points record for a career with 2,254. 

“We’ve just grown up in a basketball family,” Noah Pepper said. “My dad was a different type of animal.” 

Noah Pepper said his skill set makes him the most well rounded in his family. When compared to his dad, Noah Pepper said there are some similarities in their game.

“There’s some similar pieces and there’s some not so similar pieces,” Noah Pepper said. “I have more of an all-around game than he did; meaning I can take a little guy down to the post if I need to. He wasn’t big enough to do that, but I would say his guard play is better.”

According to Noah Pepper, living under the same roof for so long is the reason he and his dad have similar traits when it comes to the game.

“Our basketball IQs are very similar as we’ve grown in the same household,” Noah Pepper said. “I think something else that is similar is our mid-range pull up game. He’s taught me so much in the past three years on how to get in the middle of the paint and shoot little pull ups.”

Growing up around the game, Ryan Pepper said the lessons and way to play the game is the exact way he taught his sons. 

“Growing up the way I was taught to play, and how I played too, is very similar to how I taught them,” Ryan Pepper said. “To be real thinkers of the game, to be smart. My dad always told me and I’d tell them hey your papa always told me basketball is a thinking man’s game.” 

Never giving up on the study of the film and the knowledge of the game is the key to being a successful player and teammate according to Ryan Pepper. 

“Your legs will fail you, your jumping ability will fail you, all kinds of things that have to do with our body,” Ryan Pepper said. “Your brain is more powerful than you think. Really teaching them from that aspect and the fundamentals; how to dribble, how to shoot. I don’t care if you’re a big guy or a little guy, how to post up small guys sometimes, how to play outside, how to be able to make jump shots sometimes and how to work on your shot.” 

Working on his shot has been the forefront of Noah’s development with his dad over the past two years. 

“Noah had some things he wanted to fix, so his last two years we worked on a lot of adjustments,” Ryan Pepper said. “In my own opinion, you’re talking shot, ha I scored points, he’s got a really nice shot. His shot will only get better and more consistent and that takes a lot of discipline.” 

The knowledge and experience with the fundamentals of the game are why Ryan Pepper believes Noah will transition well to the collegiate level. Knowing the small details, being able to read other players and playing hard and with heart are aspects of the game he said are overlooked.

“Know when to be a good player and know when to make your players around you better,” Ryan Pepper said. “It’s not all about scoring.”   

Ryan Pepper said Noah’s love for the game of basketball developed at a young age. The experiences he witnessed as Ryan played professionally overseas. 

“I went to Australia and played for six or seven years and Noah was born over there,” Ryan Pepper said. “At the very earliest darn age they were around basketball at the gym with me, rebounding. It was a cool thing with us.”

Ryan Pepper said that basketball is natural for his family. 

“It’s in our blood,” Ryan Pepper said. “I was just talking to guys within the last year that I used to go and play pickup games with, and they remember me bringing Elijah and Noah, my boys. They still remember that they would come to open gym and they would be on the side doing their thing.”

Noah Pepper’s play at Selah did not go unnoticed after a career best 26.8 points per game in his junior season. Each season saw an increase in stats across the board prior to the 2019-2020 season being cut short due to COVID-19.

“Look what we’ve been able to accomplish without having to dunk over people, and people take this lightly, but because we can play basketball and play basketball the right way,” Ryan Pepper said. “Play hard and play with heart and that comes back to the defensive part too because defense is nothing more than a willingness to get dirty and Noah optimizes that to the max.”

Noah’s play on defense is unlike anything Ryan said he has seen before. 

“I’ve never, never, in my life seen anybody that can take a charge like Noah,” Ryan Pepper said. “You see some guys in the league who put their body on the line, but in three years he has taken 100 charges. Really think about that and it will blow you away, he took 60 charges in one season alone.” 

Ryan Pepper said his son’s ability to take a charge on defense has shifted the tide of a ballgame. 

“I’ve seen them win a game on the charges he takes alone,” Ryan Pepper said. “I’ve seen him take over a game. He takes man charges, he’s not shy and turns sideways, no he takes them hard. The willingness to take 100 is why I think he’ll do great in college because he’ll do what it takes as an all-around player.”