EXCLUSIVE: Meet RU women's basketball's 5-star frosh Zippy Broughton
PISCATAWAY -- It’s one thing to be a five-star-ranked athlete in a sport. It’s another thing to be the head of your high school academic wise.
Combine the two and you have Rutgers women’s basketball freshman Zipporah “Zippy” Broughton. Broughton was rated as the No. 23 overall prospect in the 2018 class and the No. 5 point guard by ESPN Hoopgurlz. The Wetumpka, AL. native was also the Valedictorian of her senior class at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, finishing with a 4.3 GPA.
Her dedication on and off the court allowed her rise above the rest.
“My high school coach wondered the same thing,” Broughton said with a laugh on how she was able to star in both aspects in an exclusive interview with The Knight Report. “When I have a goal, I have no choice but to meet it. I’m so focused and nobody is going to get in the way of that.”
Broughton signed to play for head coach C. Vivian Stringer and the Scarlet Knights back in November during the early fall signing period. She’s been on campus for a little over a month now and she is continuing to adjust to life up north in New Jersey and in a much bigger city/town.
Wetumpka is home to under 7,000 people while Piscataway and New Brunswick’s population are both over 56,000 each.
“It’s good. I’ve been more of a learning process so far. I’m still trying to adjust,” Broughton said. “Definitely the environment and the city (atmosphere) big time (is a change). I used to live in the woods and probably the practice schedules, I’ve been getting used to that as well. It’s coming along.”
Broughton and the rest of the team are currently undergoing summer conditioning with some practices where they work on various skills. In a year's time, they’ll be practicing in the RBJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center right next door to the Rutgers Athletic Center.
“Oh my gosh! I’m looking forward to it,” Broughton said. “Just the fact that me coming, my sophomore year I’ll be able to practice there. It’s really something to look forward to.”
"It only seems appropriate as we begin the building of the RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center that we continue to add to the building blocks of our program with Zippy,” Stringer said of Broughton in a statement when she signed in November.
The 5-foot-7 guard mentioned why she chose Rutgers, and a lot of it had to do with the Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, who has 997 career wins to her name at the college level.
“Coach Stringer and the way she believed me and I know I could get super far with her belief. Just me growing into a better player is one of the main reasons why I chose Rutgers,” Broughton said. “She looked at me as more than just a basketball player. We had a lot of conversations off the topic of basketball and I really admired that about her.”
Broughton averaged 23.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.9 steals and 4.0 assists per game while guiding Lee Montgomery High School to the Class 7A state semifinals, the furthest the program has even gotten. She also capped her scholastic career with 2,419 points.
“It was super special especially in my senior year,” Broughton said on her team’s playoff run. “I’ve never been that far before and being able to do that was a great plus in my last year of high school.”
Because of her efforts, Broughton received numerous basketball accolades this season including being named the USA Today Alabama Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year and Alabama Miss Basketball. She was also the MVP in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game and was the AL.com Player of the Year and earned a spot on its Super All-State Girls Team.
Sometimes an athlete who receives all the awards and honors can have a big head, but not Broughton, she’s as humble and laser focused as they come. She only wants to achieve more.
“They mean a lot to me and I met my goals, but I’m just looking forward to doing more,” Broughton said. “That’s just the beginning for me.”
Even though Broughton is a guard and the NBA’s LeBron James is a forward, Broughton said she models her game after him.
“I would describe my game as being a smooth scoring point guard. I like to get to my teammates involved even though I’m a score-first point guard with my abilities, but I like to look for my teammates as well.”
Stringer elaborated more about Broughton and her skills when she signed.
"She has potential off the roof. She is what you would call your typical 'Rutgers guard',” Stringer said. “Zippy is that type of person that can break you down. No one can control her or contain her one-on-one. She also comes in with a legitimate 3-point shot, has a scoring mentality and can be a disruptive defender as well.”
Defense will be key, as Stringer’s mo-jo is all about defense and her vaunted “55-defense” of full-court pressure.
Broughton knows she’s going to have to bring it and get better on that end of the court.
“With her, I have no choice to be good whether I am or not,” she said. “A Rutgers guard means they can do anything. You have no choice but to be successful in any level that you play.”
In addition to her talents on the basketball court and in the classroom, Broughton also spent countless hours volunteering for many organizations. Broughton has helped out with the Salvation Army, Boys and Girls Club, her Resurrection Catholic Church, and was a youth member at Crenshaw Community Park to name a few.
“I volunteered at the Salvation Army a lot because my dad, he used to work in the kitchen there, so on some weekends I would go,” Broughton said. “I was a part of the Boys and Girls Club too. In my church, Resurrection Church, we donated Thanksgiving baskets and on Sunday’s I would (help) disabled kids and adults at church.”
And while all her athletic awards were great, the Jimmy Hitchcock Memorial Award might be her greatest treasure.
“The Jimmy Hitchcock Award is an award for student-athletes that have a lot of academic excellence, were involved in community service, and have put their faith in the lord. That meant a lot to me because it was more than just seeing me as an athlete but for more overall character as well,” Broughton said.
“What makes Zippy real special is that she has a magnetic personality,” Stringer added. “In addition, she's a great leader on the court, as well as off the court. The fact she was the valedictorian of her junior class and of her senior class speaks to how she is the ultimate student-athlete. Myself, as well as our coaching staff, feel blessed to have her a part of our program…”
Like you would expect, Broughton is looking forward to her freshman season and hopes to earn various honors.
“I want to of course get to the NCAA Tournament, but I want to do more than to just get there too. I want to win Freshman of the Year, and all the accolades I can get as well,” Broughton said.
Stringer and Rutgers hasn’t made a true run in the big dance since 2009, and Broughton is hoping to bring the Scarlet Knights back to the promise land.
“It’s about just trusting the process,” Broughton said. “You can’t just rely on talent all the time, so it’s going to (depend) on how hard we work.”