TUCSON, Ariz. — You can hear it in his voice and feel it in his tone: Arizona’s Brandon Ashley doesn’t intend to be an afterthought again.
He’s determined to make a difference this season.
And he won’t be as passive as he was last year, deferring to upperclassmen because he was a freshman.
Now, as Arizona gets ready for what could be an exciting season, Ashley, a 6-foot-8 forward, is looking forward to year No. 2 as a Wildcat.
Confidence and consistency will be key.
“When you’re a freshman, you’re just feeling yourself out and you want to get used to the game and adjust to the college game,” Ashley said at Arizona’s media day. “After being out on the court and being able to get used to it more, you build up a comfort level.
“I’ve settled into a program that I’m in. And I think that’s good.”
As does Arizona coach Sean Miller, who has a pair of explosive, speedy finishers in Ashley and talented freshman Aaron Gordon as well as jumping-jack guard Nick Johnson.
Imagine the high-flying fun.
Ashley said he and Gordon have known each other for a handful of years through the youth basketball circuit.
“As basketball players, we can make things work in whatever system we are in,” Ashley said. “It’s about having the time to develop. We both have the ability and have developed the chemistry over the past four years. We’ve been friends.”
Ashley worked hard on his game over the summer. Last year was marked by inconsistency. He played in all 35 games, making 21 starts, and averaged 20.5 minutes, 7.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
“He’s been hungry and has put in a lot of work,” Miller said.
He’s up about 15 pounds from a season ago. And he’s worked on extending his game, stretching his distance on the jumper.
“I practically lived in the gym this summer,” Ashley said. “I was here most of the summer, working on a lot of things. I wanted to work on my motor, working on my offense and defense.”
Miller said the leap from the first season to the second in college basketball can be huge, but he sees Ashley, a former McDonald’s All-American, putting in the effort to make it.
“Brandon is sometimes is the guy not a lot of people are talking about,” Miller said. “He’s worked hard on his shot. I don’t think he’ll go from where he was last year to a guy who shoots a ton of 3-point shots, but if he’s open right now, I believe he can take the shot and make it.”
And if not, he’s game is versatile enough to where he can take an opponent off the dribble and get to the basket.
“He’s much better at driving the ball,” Miller said. “He’s bigger and stronger and he has youth on his side.”
Along with some new-found confidence he didn’t have last year.