Dear Brandon Ashley,
You don’t know me, but I know you. No, I’m not a stalker (well, I kinda am). I’m one of thousands of diehard Arizona Wildcat fans, like most of the people reading this letter on PointGuardU.com. We’re cut from a different cloth than the casual fans; we obsess about basketball whether it’s March or August, and we do it with equal and sustained verve. That’s why I’m writing to you today.
While most people are talking about football and baseball, us diehards have hoops on the brain. We just can’t help it. So forgive me if the timing doesn’t make sense, but there’s something I have to say to you.
You need to step the f— up next year.
That’s not to say your freshman season wasn’t good enough. By most accounts, it was successful. You played with heart, with intensity, and your talent shined through in brilliant flashes. But during your sophomore year, more of the same just won’t be good enough.
We need your fire, your passion, on every play, every game.
With a great deal of respect to Zeus, TJ, and Nick, the other guys on the roster don’t display the same intensity that you do. They’re great players, it’s just not their style. But I see something in you every time you sacrifice your body for a rebound or an And-1. Some people call it a scowl, I call it a war face.
Body language is very telling, and your body language smacks of an unrelenting drive to win. It’s why you’re my favorite player on the team. Sometimes, you look downright angry out there. Frankly, there are times when you look like a bad, bad man on the court. That’s the kind of toughness that will be the backbone of next year’s team. If you’ll excuse the metonymy, you are the claws of this Wildcat.
So we need you to be the fierceness that will inspire others, but that’s not all. We also need you to evolve as a basketball player. I understand that’s not something that happens in a day, week, or even month. But it’s something you need to devote your entire being to. From a self-interested standpoint, there are literally millions of dollars on the line for you. From a less self-interested standpoint, there’s also a national championship on the line. Quite clearly, the stakes are very high.
That’s why we need you to be a force on the glass. Zeus is the man in the middle, and he’ll anchor us in the post. But you provide a different element, a different variable in the equation. If Tarczewski is the thunder, then you are the lightning.
To your credit, you did a great job on the boards last year. The advanced statistics support that. But we need more. We need your agility and athleticism to create extra possessions through offensive rebounds, and we need you to crush the spirit of the other team by snatching every defensive board within arm’s length.
Though it’s statistically improbable, you need to play like a guy who averages 10 rebounds a game. When you are in, we need to know that every loose ball will be attacked with reckless abandon. Ultimately, that’s one thing that can separate you from all the other forwards with NBA aspirations. Come draft night, you’ll understand just how important that can be.
We also need you to show how diverse your offensive game really is. We all know that you’re too quick and skilled for bigger, slower defenders, and that you’re too tall and strong for smaller, quicker opponents. But now we need you to show your true arsenal.
You can hit the midrange jumper, and that’s going to be a vital part of the offense. Not only does it help space the floor, but being able to take your defender out to the perimeter bolsters the advantage we have with a 7 footer down low. Besides, who in the Pac-12 is going to be able to check you on the perimeter in a triple threat position? Few.
You can also put the ball on the floor and create. Granted, there were a lot of times last year that you put your head down and just barreled through people. That’s something the coaches have undoubtedly addressed. But how many power forwards in the conference, hell, how many power forwards in the entire country can wreak the havoc that you can with the ball in their hands? Few.
What I’m getting at is that you, Mr. Ashley, can provide things that no one else on the team can. And that’s exactly why it’s so important that you do so. There are a lot of factors that go into team success, but I honestly believe this team will go as far as you take it. TJ can facilitate all day, Nick can cover the entire court, and Zeus can patrol the paint. But there’s something about your game that provides a dynamic heretofore unseen. It’s the fire, the passion that I alluded to earlier.
Will you answer the call? The diehard fan in me desperately, so desperately, hopes so. It could be the difference between a good year and a truly great one.
PS- When I sent this article to the editor at PGU, he asked me if it was a love letter and facetiously made a Fatal Attraction joke. I laughed, retorted with an off-color insult of my own, and went about my business. But now that I think about it, this is a love letter. It’s a love letter to Arizona Basketball, and Brandon Ashley is my liaison.
One of the hallmarks of an 18th century love letter is an impassioned plea supported by a grandiose and idealistic vision of a shared future. That’s exactly what this is. And based on what I’ve seen and read from other Cat fans, it’s something that any of us could have written. But it’s something that needed explicit statement, one of the key requisites of this site’s editor in considering submitted articles from contributing writers. Hopefully I’ve accomplished that, and hopefully Brandon Ashley already knows everything I’ve said above.