Robert Eppinger Expelled from High School

Robert Eppinger, a 6-foot-8 senior power forward from Rockford (IL) Jefferson who had listed Minnesota among his top college choices, has been expelled from Jefferson High School because of an altercation that took place in May at Rockford East along with teammate Branden Fisher, according to the Rockford Register Star.

Robert Eppinger, who was considered one of the top rising seniors in Illinois, averaged 17.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game last season as he led the J-Hawks to a 23-10 mark and a fourth-place finish in the Class AA state tournament. However, his status for the upcoming season and his future recruitment are up in the air.

The Rockford School Board voted at Tuesday's meeting to expel the seniors. Eppinger, Fisher, both 17, and a third student, 18, were arrested on May 23 after a fight broke out between them and an East student. Eppinger and Fisher were arrested on the charges of simple battery, criminal trespass to state supported property and mob action.

Eppinger plead guilty to battery and is serving 40 hours of public service, 12 months of court supervision and paying a $250 fine. Fisher's case is still open, and the next court date is Aug. 29.

"He's never been in any trouble," said Robert's father, Robert Eppinger Sr. "He got into one fight. It wasn't gang related. There were no drugs, and no guns. I don't know why they're using Robert as an example. It's too extreme.

"I know he can play at the college level right now. But this has put a damper on his senior year. This is more important than anything. But we're going to do whatever we can to make things right."

Eppinger, a starting varsity forward since his freshman year and a Division I prospect, earned NIC-9 league MVP honors and was named second-team all-state by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Eppinger was also a Mr. Basketball of Illinois nominee. Fisher, a starting point guard who averaged 14.0 points and 3.9 assists, sat out his sophomore year due to ineligibility before earning first-team all-NIC-9 honors as a junior. Fisher has also received Division I interest last year.

"It was a big misunderstanding," Fisher told the Register Star in June regarding the arrest. "We just went up there (East High School) to pick up a student. It was nothing, really. They're making a bigger deal out of it than what it was.

"I just hope people don't get the wrong idea about us. We're not bad kids."

James Fisher said Wednesday he will try to get his son accepted on a team in Chicago. Branden's mother is a Chicago resident.

Eppinger may also attempt to transfer to a Chicago school or move to Peoria, which is where he is originally from.

"I do not condone what they did, but they were going over to East to see a friend," James Fisher said. "They were not going over with the intent to fight someone. We were thinking maybe they would get a 10-day suspension.

"People make mistakes in their lives. To try to ruin two kids' careers is outlandish. I'm not saying give them preferential treatment because they're basketball players, but there were no drugs or weapons involved. It's unfair, and everybody knows it. I think (the school board) is doing this because they knew who these players were and they are trying to make an example."

James Fisher also said that he is trying to get the charges dropped and that he's considering appealing the suspension at a higher level.

"We didn't even know we were getting expelled," Branden said Wednesday. "They showed it on the news, and that's how we found out. We still haven't talked to anybody. I was looking forward to going back to Jefferson. I thought it was said and done."

Eppinger told GoldenSports.net that he was hearing from Minnesota, Wyoming, Iowa, Seton Hall, Purdue and Illinois State. He has received offers from Minnesota, Seton Hall, Purdue and Illinois State.

Eppinger scored an 18 on the ACT, but plans to retake the test. He has a 2.6 GPA and plans to major in communications.

Eppinger attended the Minnesota-St. Francis (PA) game in late December. The Gophers have recruited the Rockford area in the past and landed point guard Aaron Robinson, who finished his eligibility this season. Eppinger has connections to Robinson as his former coach, Tony Box, is Robinson's guardian. The connection helped get the visit from Eppinger, who said that Minnesota is his current favorite and he planned to come back in August.

"They've been playing really good the last few years. I like the campus. I'm going up there to see the atmosphere and I might commit."

GoldenSports.net will continue to monitor this situation and keep you updated with the latest information.

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