MANHATTAN, Kan. — I want you to step back in time with me for a moment. We’re going back to the year 2012.
The setting: Thursday night at the Iowa high school state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena.
Mt. Pleasant and Grinnell are doing battle on the court in a Class 3A semifinal. It’s my senior year and my team had lost in the 2A semifinals earlier in the day.
While I watched the game, I become engrossed by a senior guard for the Panthers. His name is Jordan Ashton. I came to the game to watch one of my future college teammates play for Grinnell, but this kid from Mt. Pleasant was the one that I left impressed by.
Two nights later he led his team to the state championship in a double-overtime thriller against Epworth, Western Dubuque.
Ashton was officially on my radar.
Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, Kan., Ashton could put himself on everybody else’s. Ashton is expected to get his first solid playing time of the season after Hallice Cooke was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules.
The sweet-shooting, quick and tough guard from Mt. Pleasant is finally getting his chance on the big-stage.
He redshirted his first year at Northwest Missouri State, then played in 15 games and made six 3-pointers during his freshman season.
He found a new home at Kirkwood Community College and became a first-team All-American at the Division II NJCAA level. He scored 16.4 points per game and knocked down 82 shots from behind the arc at a 43 percent clip.
He didn’t start out on scholarship at Iowa State, but it didn’t take him long to earn one.
During the YMCA Capital City League last summer, I saw a better version of the kid that impressed me three years earlier.
He shot from deep, he got to the rim, he defended and he helped make his teammates better. Will all of that show Saturday afternoon in Bramlage Coliseum against Kansas State?
I don’t know, but I do have a good feeling the Octagon of Doom won’t intimidate Ashton anymore than Wells Fargo Arena.
Step up, Mr. Ashton. Welcome to the spotlight.