Ash Wednesday: Arizona Forward Thankful For Second Chance

LOS ANGELES, CA– Brandon Ashley slowly emerged from the tunnel long after his teammates had taken the floor.

Hands buried in the pockets of his shorts.

His face expressionless.

All along dragging his booted right foot.

It was almost a year ago to the day Ashley sat on the empty bench with his broken foot and watched his Arizona Wildcats teammates go through practice the day before their Sweet 16 game in southern California.

Now Ashley is back at the Sweet 16: playing instead of watching as the second-seeded ‘Cats (33-13) prepare for their Thursday night showdown against Sean Miller’s old team, sixth-seed Xavier at Staples Center.

“I’m back, healthy again,” a smiling Ashley told before Wednesday’s practice at Staples Center. “Really looking forward for the opportunity to be back on the court in the Sweet 16 again.”

The versatile 6’9 forward has turned up his play the last two months scoring in double figures in 13 of UofA’s last 16 games, including a pair of 20+ contests in the Pac-12 Tournament. Ashley is the Cats’ second-leading scorer averaging just over 12 a game. He’s also second in rebounding (5.3) and third in blocks with 25.

 “I think I’ve definitely had my ups and downs this year,” he said. “At this point of the season I do feel like I have actually improved from where I was last year.” 

They say good things come to those who wait.

Ashley is living proof of that.