Coast 2 Coast Hoops
I remember sitting in on practice at Findlay Prep, just about a year ago. Located in Henderson, Nevada, the national basketball powerhouse has already started producing waves of NBA talent despite existing for just five years.
There were multiple future pro's on the court, and Arizona commit Brandon Ashley was one of them. Despite being extremely talented, he remained coachable in the practice atmosphere, a great indicator of future success. I'm not sure if it was the way he effortlessly made strong moves to the hoop or the fact that he could kick into a gear that other kids simply didn't have, but I left there firmly believing that Ashley was going to be an excellent college player.
That's no revelation, as Ashley was rated a top 10 recruit by every major service and he participated in all the big time, national All-Star games. But for all the hype a recruit can have, nothing is as convincing as seeing it in front of your own two eyes. That day, I got to see what made Ashley a special player for myself.
But don't take it from me, take it from this NBA scout who offered his opinion after watching the first half of Ashley's freshman season at Arizona.
"He's a really special player. He's got the physical tools to be dominant on the college level, and he's got that certain something that allows players to be great," he said. "Call it swagger, X-factor, or just 'it,' but Brandon Ashley's got it. He's going to be a force in college."
Now of course, that NBA scout had some criticisms too. But the point here is that Arizona is sitting on a gem in Brandon Ashley, and he hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of his potential.
The numbers might not jump off the page at you, but Ashley's statistics have actually been pretty impressive thus far. He leads the team in rebounding at 6.1 per game, and puts up a team best 57% from the field. Ashley also stacks up well with the rest of the conference, rating in the top 20 Pac-12 players in HoopsNerd.com's latest player rankings
(for an explanation of the rating system and much more, make sure you bookmark that link and visit often).
Ashley has produced in his 22 minutes per game, but it has been inconsistent production. He's grabbed 7 or more rebounds in six of the Cats' 14 games, but he's also scored two or less in five of them. It's been feast or famine for Ashley, and though that can be frustrating for fans, we have nothing to worry about. Freshmen will have their ups and downs, but a player like Ashley is going to put it together eventually, you can be sure of that.
It might not happen until later this season, it might not happen until next season. But it's going to happen. And when the time comes, things are going to start clicking for Ashley, that light will go off and he's going to provide a dynamic to Arizona that no one else can. He might have his growing pains throughout the season, but when he shines it's plain to see that the future is bright for Brandon Ashley.