This little baller’s hitting the big time!
Upper West Sider Camilla “Pepper” Persley is only 10, but after Game 5 of the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks’ first-round series on Wednesday, she will have called her first NBA playoff game.
The fourth-grader, who moonlights as a reporter and podcaster, will be part of the inaugural “Clippers Kids Cast,” a youth-centric broadcast featuring graphics, animation and quippy kid-friendly commentary.
“When I found out, I was really excited, but I was a little nervous,” Persley, who flew out to LA on Tuesday for the game, told The Post. “But now that we are almost there, it’s really all excitement.”
After all, the budding broadcaster who got her start at the tender age of 6, will be getting assists from two pros, analyst Corey Maggette and Clippers radio voice Noah Eagle, who did the play by play for the wildly popular, slime-drenched Nickelodeon broadcast of the NFL Saints-Bears playoff game back in January.
“[Noah] is really awesome. He is funny, and I think we have great chemistry so far. I am very excited to get to LA and broadcast with him and Corey,” said the pint-sized, lifelong Nets fan who is preparing for her gig by studying up on the Clippers’ roster.
Nicknamed Pepper — after the Marvel character Pepper Potts — by her father, Persley interviews WNBA players on her Instagram page “Dish With Pepper” and podcast “She Got Next.” She caught the Clippers’ eye when she co-hosted a virtual panel they produced for the YMCA in Los Angeles.
“Her poise and talent left an impression on all of us,” said Gillian Zucker, Clippers’ president of business operations.
“When the details for this broadcast started coming together, Pepper was the first person we thought of . . . Her future isn’t just bright, it’s blinding.”
The precocious Persley, whose father, Christopher, has been a New York Liberty season ticket holder since the team’s first season in 1997, credits her start in media to curiosity and a passion for hoops.
“[Initially,] I don’t think I was necessarily interested in journalism. I just had so many questions about the WNBA and the players that my parents couldn’t answer,” said Persley. When she was 6, her father, who had a connection with the Liberty, organized an interview with Sugar Rodgers, who was playing for the team at the time.
“He thought they were just going to pass some questions along, but it became this big thing,” said Persley. She sat down with Rodgers, and it ignited a side hustle for Persley. The next year she interviewed a handful of players on anti-bullying for her YouTube channel. Then last May, as the pandemic was raging, she launched her Instagram Live series and podcast. “I wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces,” she said of her project.
But her poise and thoughtful line of questioning did more than make people smile. It brought a flurry of league superstars to her virtual interview chair.
So far, she has chatted with players such as Sabrina Ionescu, Sue Bird, Liz Cambage and Brittney Griner, as well as coaches and other broadcasters, including her two favorites, Meghan McPeak, who calls games for the Washington Mystics and Nets analyst Sarah Kustok.
“I love what [Sarah] does, because she is a woman in a space where there is basically all men . . . [Meghan] is one of my mentors, and I texted her this morning to tell her about this. We had five texts back and forth with her telling me I was going to be awesome.”
However, Persley won’t play favorites with players, only saying, “They all inspire me.”
On game day, she’ll be sporting a Clippers jersey and wearing a key around her neck that was given to her classmates by her teacher back in September. “I’m not super superstitious. But it’s something tangible to hold onto. I thought it was cool.”
And she’ll be listening to her personal playlist titled “Calm down, you’re gonna do great,” which has inspirational songs including “Born To Be Brave” from the “High School Musical: The Musical” series.
When she’s not reporting on sports, she’s playing them. Persley suits up for soccer, softball and basketball — the latter with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program Future Ladies Who Hoop. The petite fourth-grader said she likes to “break ankles” with her deft ball-handling skills.
Although Wednesday’s Clippers broadcast will air only on the West Coast, fans across the country can get a taste of her skills on the team’s social-media platforms — and that’s just the beginning for the rising young star.
“I think this is a really big opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what else comes of it,” said Persley. “A lot of people expect kids to have dreams and grow up and then achieve them. And I am really lucky to achieve them while I am a kid, so I want to be a role model and an inspiration.”