After bulking up over the summer and spending countless hours in the weight room, sophomore Brandon Ashley is finally beginning to see the fruits of his labor.
Arizona’s 6-foot-8, 230-pound starting power forward has amassed increased strength and agility since last year and will likely play a vital role in this year’s team, which is expected to go far.
Over the Wildcats’ first two games this season, Ashley is tied with highly heralded freshman forward Aaron Gordon for a team-leading average of 13.5 points per game. Both have scored 27 points and made 11 field goals.
While it is still early in the year, Ashley has shown better consistency and improved confidence on the court, putting up double digits in each of his first two games of the season.
Ashley is shooting 11-for-14 (.786) within the perimeter and has compiled 16 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals over 50 minutes. In comparison to this season, over his first two starts last year, Ashley averaged 2.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists fewer, scoring 22 points to go along with 21 rebounds and three assists.
Overall last year, he averaged 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest, two numbers that are expected to rise by the end of this season.
Before coming to Arizona, Ashley was a five-star recruit out of Findlay Prep’s nationally acclaimed basketball program and was ranked as the No. 16 overall and No. 2 power forward in his class by ESPN.com. As a senior, he averaged 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and helped his team to a 32-1 record and an ESPN National High School Invitational title.
In his time at Arizona, especially during the past offseason, Ashley has expanded his versatility and emerged as a balanced five-tool type player who plays confidently. That confidence has allowed him to become more patient and selective with his shots, letting the game come to him instead of forcing it.
In Arizona’s most recent victory against Long Beach State, Ashley showed NBA caliber and led the team, scoring a game-high 16 points while collecting seven rebounds and two blocks en route to being named the game’s MVP.
If his production continues at the same pace, there is no doubt that Ashley will be on NBA scouts’ radars for next year’s draft.
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17