The Arizona men's basketball team will start practice for the upcoming season on Oct. 12 – and will do so with eight new players in the program. Freshman forward Brandon Ashley is eager to start and is working hard to make the 2012-13 campaign a successful one.
Ashley finished his high school career at Findlay Prep (N.V.), a basketball powerhouse that has produced many NCAA basketball players, including current Wildcat Nick Johnson. According to Ashley, the time spent there was invaluable in preparing him for attending the University of Arizona.
"I think the fact that I was away from home, away from my family for about a year before I got to college helped a lot," Ashley said. "It was like college before college."
It also helps that in his last high school game, Ashley led his team to an 18 point, fourth-quarter comeback to win the national high school championship. However, Ashley understands the differences between high school and college basketball, and is leaving those accolades behind.
"You want to leave what happened in high school in high school," Ashley said. "College is a completely different game. All the accomplishments I had in high school mean nothing now; I'm basically starting over. You want to leave that where it is and move on to college"
Senior teammate Solomon Hill went through the transition to college three years ago, and knows what it entails.
"You have to learn how to manage your time, and those guys will slowly learn how," Hill said. "It took me a while to manage my time wisely and cut out distractions. Past players have come in here and put something ahead of basketball. That's why you're here, to get an education and play basketball."
The new team was able to take a trip to the Bahamas in August, something that hopefully made the transition into the upcoming season a little easier. The team was able to practice and compete in exhibition games, something Ashley believes was crucial for getting involved with the program.
"Having those 10 practices to get acquainted with the system helped a lot," Ashley said. "It helped just knowing how practices are run."
Ashley was also able to make a favorable impression on Hill with his practice habits.
"Brandon is a good guy," Hill said. "He doesn't have an ego about him. He's always open to learn, willing to learn. Brandon is always listening in practice; you never have to tell him things twice. He runs the court well and he's great at facing up and getting to the basket."
As critical as the game experience may be, the trip potentially provided the team with something more important; the opportunity to get to know one another and mesh.
"We were able to bond, not just on the court but off the court," Hill said. "I think once you get a team that can bond off the court, it will come together on the court."
With the regular season around the corner, Ashley is doing everything he can to prepare.
"I just need to play right," Ashley said. "I need to focus on what I do best and what I can control: working hard in practice and continue to do well in school."
In order for Ashley to have success, according to Hill, he needs to make sure he brings one more thing: confidence.
"Confidence is the biggest thing in basketball, period," Hill said. "You can be in the gym for 24 hours straight doing the same thing, but if you don't have the confidence to do it when it's live then there's no point."
The Wildcats will take the floor for the first time this season in their annual McDonald's Red-Blue game on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. PDT. Tickets can be found at the McKale Center Ticket Office, www.arizonawildcats.com or by calling 520-621-CATS.