When the Houston Rockets kicked off the season in October, Pharr native and UTRGV alumna Sarah Nicole Zepeda hit the court for the first time as a Rockets Power Dancer (RPD) for the NBA team.

A rookie on the dance squad, Zepeda was selected from more than 100 women who tried out for one of just 11 spots. Now, she is one of three rookies on the team for the 2018-2019 season.

“RPD represents strength, power and confidence,” Zepeda said. “Every aspect – from performances, uniforms, giving back and fan interactions – shows the environment that the Rockets organization has created, and I knew I needed to be on the team.”

Zepeda graduated from UTRGV in December of 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in communication.

She plans to get a master’s degree in communication from UTRGV, and hopes to one day be a sports entertainment director for the NBA.

To become an RPD, Zepeda competed in a two-round, day-long audition to determine who would move forward to the week-long finals, which included new routines and intense trainings.

Throughout the process, Zepeda said, she not only danced, but also was required to go through interviews and was tested on the Houston Rockets history.

“I’m a lucky woman to be able to do what truly makes me happy every single day,” Zepeda said.

As an RPD, Zepeda practices three times a week and meets with trainers once a week. Aside from rehearsals, there are also game days and appearances.

On game days, the dancers perform during timeout breaks for a minute and a half. During appearances, the RPDs interact with Rocket fans throughout the Houston community and volunteer for events in the area.

“RPD requires dedication and commitment, and hours and hours of rehearsal,” she said. “We have to maintain our image, and of course how we represent ourselves to our fans.”

When she completes her rookie year, Zepeda hopes to return as a veteran Rockets Power Dancer for the next basketball season.

“It may seem like a part-time job, but it’s a full-time schedule,” Zepeda said. “It’s all possible if you have the passion for it.”