The Arizona Wildcats didn’t go on a 21-game win streak to start off the season this year. They aren’t ranked 4th in the AP Top 25. And they didn’t receive the No. 1 seed in the West bracket region.
But coach Sean Miller and the Wildcats are still in March Madness contention with an overall record of 31-3 (16-2 in the Pac-12), a final AP ranking of No. 5, a first-place finish in the PAC-12 for both the regular season and the conference championship and a No. 2 seed in the West tournament bracket. And, unlike like last season, big man Brandon Ashley will being playing in the tournament this year.
Here’s what you need to know about Brandon Ashley:
1. Ashley Made a Come Back From Last Year’s Season-Ending Injury
February 1, 2014 was a rough day for Arizona. They suffered their first loss to California, which broke their 21-game win streak, and they lost Ashley to a season-ending injury early during that game.
Prior to hurting a ligament in his foot, Ashley started in every game and was averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He had surgery 10 days after suffering the injury and has been going through therapy to get back on the court ever since.
The 6-foot-8 forward told Sports Illustrated:
Obviously I don’t want to be the same exact player I was last year. I don’t think the injury is going to hold me back. I put in a lot of work this summer so I can see myself growing over the course of this year. I expect that.
While Ashley’s stats aren’t quite as high as they were pre-injury, they’re not far behind. He’s averaging 12.3 points and 5.4 boards per game for the Wildcats. He’s fifth in the PAC-12 for offense boards per game, and similar to being a key factor in their No. 2 ranking last year, he’s a major reason they’re sitting within the Top 10 again this season.
2. Ashley Was on The Cover of Sports Illustrated
On November 10, Ashley graced the regional 2014-15 season preview cover of Sports Illustrated. He was just the 14th Wildcats athlete to be featured on the SI cover and the third Arizona athlete in the past year – all of them were regional editions.
When the edition was released, Ashley tweeted out this Instagram post:
Blessed. It is truly an honor to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. http://t.co/ZjdwgWWRqU
— Brandon Ashley (@_Bash21) November 5, 2014
3. Ashley Was a 5-Star Recruit Coming Out of High School
Ashley spent three years at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California where he averaged a double-double, 15 points and 10 rebounds per game as a junior. He also helped lead the Dragons to back-to-back CIF North Coast Division III titles in 2010 and 2011 and was named as the 2011 Cal-Hi Sport Junior of the Year and All-CIF North Coast Division 3AA performer.
Heading into his senior season, Ashley transferred to Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nevada. That season he helped lead the Pilots to a 32-1 record and an ESPN National High School Invitational national title. The big man also averaged 15.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and was named as a 2012 Parade All-American and a honorable mention ESPN High School All-American. The power forward also had six points and 10 rebounds in the 2012 McDonald’s All-American Game.
Ashley was considered a 5-star recruit by ESPN.com and was listed as the No. 3 power forward and the No. 16 player in the nation following his senior year. And Rivals listed him as the 4th-best recruit for his position and No. 23 overall.
4. Ashley Is a 2015 NBA Draft Prospect
According to DraftExpress, Ashley is considered the 39th pick among NCAA juniors and 17th by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Ashley sits between fellow juniors Jameel McKay from Iowa State and Shaq Goodwin of the Memphis Tigers.
5. Ashley’s Girlfriend Models for Lifted Anchors Clothing Line
But she’s not only posting selfies and models pics. Lomeli has also included several posts of her and Ashley together despite the challenges faced with the distance his schedule brings.
Although the Wildcats were on the road in Washington during Valentine’s Day weekend, Ashley still found a way to send Lomeli a special gift.