Brandon Ashley's debut start a success for Wildcats basketball
Arizona freshman forward Brandon Ashley started his first game Monday night against Long Beach State and made a lasting impression in the Wildcats’ 94-72 win. He recorded Arizona’s first double-double of the season, bringing the UA’s record to 3-0 in the early going.
Ashley scored a team-high 20 points and garnered a team-high 10 rebounds for Arizona, who now has a nine-day break before facing its next opponent.
“He was the best player on the floor tonight,” said head coach Sean Miller. “In the first four minutes, he really set the tone for our team.”
Ashley scored 11 of his points in the first half, including the first five points and first rebound of the game, which led to free throws for the Oakland, Calif., native.
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat
“I came out feeling energetic,” Ashley said. “My teammates were looking for me and happened to find me in some good positions to score.”
In fact, Ashley was so effective on the offensive end of the floor that his first miss of the night didn’t come until a free throw attempt in the second half. It was his only miss of the game.
“Brandon has stayed with it,” said senior forward Solomon Hill, who scored his 1,000th career point late in the second half. “He’s been patient. The biggest thing has been his patience on the floor. When he gets in the key, it’s hard to stop him. He can get in between guys.”
The patience Ashley has shown through three games has been apparent to in practices as well. Miller has praised his entire recruiting class for its maturity and approach to the game, but especially praises Ashley.
“One of the things I’ve been most proud of is he’s learning how to practice harder,” Miller said. “The reason we started him tonight was because of how he really started to take over practices. There was a practice he had this week that was very similar to how he played in tonight’s game.
“We are going to try and reward players that work the hardest.”
Ashley’s style of play has drawn comparisons to former forward Derrick Williams, who did not start the first two games of his Arizona career before developing into the second overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Like Williams, Ashley can score inside, draw fouls and is aggressive on the offensive and defensive glass — but there is one glaring deficiency. Williams was one of the best three-point shooters in the nation in his sophomore campaign, though it might be premature to expect that much out of Ashley.
“I can shoot threes, but it’s not necessarily that I enjoy doing a lot,” Ashley said. “I can take it out there, if necessary.”
Miller said before the season started that the eventual plan for Ashley is to move him to small forward, which Hill and fellow senior Kevin Parrom, who sored 15 points on five three-pointers, currently occupy.
Miller didn’t want to overload Ashley with information that would stunt his development, much in the way he handled the growth of Williams. For now, Ashley is just “a basketball player,” Miller said.
“He’s sticking with the process,” Hill said. “Right now, [Brandon] is doing other things that will help the team out. What he’s doing right now is working for us, and working for him as well. We might as well just stay with it.”