MSM's Ashe has 'just come a long way'

MSM's Ashe has 'just come a long way'
Mount Saint Mary's guard Byron Ashe drives down the court in front of Bryant's Curtis Oakley and Dan Garvin Saturday, Feb. 14 in Emmitsburg. (DAVE MUNCHSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Byron Ashe was struggling.

The Mount St. Mary's sophomore guard, the leading returning scorer from last year's Northeast Conference champions, couldn't make a shot and his decision-making seemed a bit "me-first" to the coaching staff over the first two months of the season. The tri-captain's scoring average and field-goal percentage dipped and he found himself confined to the bench for long stretches — twice he never he got to take off his warmups.


That all changed in mid-January, when Ashe regained coach Jamion Christian's trust and his shooting touch. He goes into tonight's game at St. Francis (Pa.) as the hottest player in the NEC, averaging 23.7 points over his past three games, all Mount wins.

So what happened?

"He's listening to Coach," junior forward Gregory Graves said Saturday after MSM's 75-64 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Maybe it's not quite that simple, but Christian and Ashe agree that altering the way he looked at himself and his role with the Mountaineers has allowed Ashe to turn his season around.

"I just changed my mindset," Ashe said. "I'm more about winning. That's just part of growing up. And I think when I've had that mindset we have a great chance to win."

Christian said what Ashe has gone through this season is no different from what many young players who are used to being star players go through. The ones who succeed come to an important realization, he said.

"The conversation to become a great player starts when a guy says, 'I'm going to do whatever it takes for our team to win.' There's no conversation until then," Christian said. "When you come in and say 'I want to win,' now we're talking the same language and we can really understand each other.

"[Ashe] said that to me probably about a month ago. And ever since that day ..."

The difference has been dramatic.

Through Jan. 10, Ashe was averaging 8.1 points per game on 31.6 percent shooting. He had missed two games, including the Mount's conference opener, with the dreaded box score explanation of "Did Not Play – Coach's Decision."

Starting with the Jan. 15 game at Fairleigh Dickinson, however, Ashe is averaging 15.3 points per game on 49.6 percent shooting. He now leads the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game. He has played no less than 27 minutes in any of the Mount's last 12 games and has topped 20 points five times, including the past three. If he can go for at least 20 again tonight, he'll become just the third Mount player in the past two decades — joining Chris McGuthrie and Julian Norfleet — to have four consecutive games of 20 points or more.

Christian is most happy that Ashe is doing it in an efficient manner. During Saturday's win, he made seven of 12 field goal attempts, making five 3-pointers, and he also got to the foul line six times, converting five free throws to match his career high of 24 points he originally set a week earlier. Those probably aren't numbers Ashe could've produced last year or earlier this season.

"When you recruit good players, they can take 12 shots and score 24 points," Christian said. "[But] when you bring in high school kids, they think they need to take 20 shots to score 24 points. The struggle is within trying to help them understand where they play best at, getting to the spots on the floor, attacking the rim, getting to the free-throw line."

Ashe isn't just scoring, however. His Saturday line also included a career-high five assists, four steals and a blocked shot. The shooting guard has had at least two assists in seven of the past nine games. That's a number he reached only twice in the Mount's first 18 games.


"The thing that he's doing so well right now is he's passing the ball and that's helping him have better looks at the basket," Christian said. "Every time he's taking a shot now, there's only one defender around him. And when he drives to the basket he's able to elevate and finish."

Christian insists he isn't surprised at how Ashe has been able to transform himself this season, going from the doghouse to the top of the team's scoring leaders in a span of five weeks. Even when Christian left Ashe on the bench for the entirety of the Dec. 22 game against Binghamton and the Jan. 3 NEC opener at Robert Morris he called Ashe a "special player" who would do great things.

Ashe bristled at sitting out those two games, but now concedes the lesson it taught him was much needed and served as the catalyst to his improved attitude and play.

"Initially, I didn't think so, but when you actually look back at the impact it had on me, I really needed that," Ashe said. "Not playing those games, it was hard for me. But I learned that I needed to change my mindset, to actually do whatever it takes to win."

The new mindset combined with his obvious talents and a work ethic that was never in question has Ashe playing his best and has the Mountaineers tied for second in the NEC with two regular-season games remaining.

In the midst of an outstanding run himself, averaging 12.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during league play, Graves said Ashe deserves all the success he's enjoying.

"He's coming in with a good mindset, he's working hard every day in practice," Graves said. "He's just come a long way."

Reach staff writer Bob Blubaugh at 410-857-7895 or