Coast 2 Coast Hoops
This is the latest installment in our “Past and Future” series, detailing each player’s last season and what the future holds. Remember to check PGU for the next installment!
On November 19th, 2012, in just his third career game as a Wildcat, Brandon Ashley recorded 20 points and 10 rebounds. Over the last 10 years, only two other freshmen in Arizona history have done that in their first season — Chase Budinger and Derrick Williams, currently of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
So it would be a vast understatement to say that Ashley exhibited some jaw dropping potential last year. What Ashley showed, in just over 20 minutes per game, was a dynamic combination of skills at the power forward position.
Ashley was at his best when he displayed athleticism and quickness around the basket, which resulted in both offensive rebounds and trips to the free throw line. Ashley corralled 54 offensive rebounds in 35 games, second only to Kaleb Tarczewski among returning players. And Ashley attempted 98 free throws last year, also second best among returnees.
He was an effective scorer as well, hitting 52.5% of his field goal attempts. Many of those attempts came close to the basket, where Ashley was too quick and fluid for bigger defenders. While his scoring output fluctuated from game to game, Ashley had a knack for putting the ball in the hoop, shooting 60% or better in 12 games last season.
While Ashley showed flashes of brilliance and started 21 games as a freshman, at times he struggled with maintaining his effort level while on the court. Ashley was prone to lulls in which he was less active, and therefore less productive. As a result, he felt a shorter leash from coach Sean Miller and Ashley actually saw his minutes decline through conference play.
Still, it was a promising season for Ashley. With averages of 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and a growing comfort level, he looks poised for a big sophomore campaign.
Arizona needs Ashley in a major way next year. With Grant Jerrett opting for the NBA and Angelo Chol transferring, all of a sudden the Wildcats don’t have many options at the power forward position. Freshman Aaron Gordon will undoubtedly play some time at the four spot, but the bulk of the responsibility will fall on Ashley’s shoulders.
As a probable starter, Ashley will also be relied on as a main offensive threat. He’ll have to continue being effective down low, but he’ll also be asked to step out stretch defenses with his shooting ability, while creating mismatches for slower defenders.
After losing seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, and Kevin Parrom, Ashley’s biggest contribution next year may be as an emotional leader. On a team without much of an upperclassman presence, Ashley has the toughness and attitude to be the player Arizona turns to when things get rough. That’s a role that Lyons, Hill, and Parrom all shared at times, and it’s one that Ashley seems born to step into.
Ashley’s sophomore season could be a special one. All signs point to an expanded role, which means he could be one of the breakout players in the Pac-12, maybe the entire country. With the physical tools he has, Ashley’s potential is sky high.
But ultimately that will be decided by his ability to put together sustained energy every minute he’s on the court. If he’s able to do that, Ashley could be the next in a long line of Arizona players in the NBA.