With a larger role in store for Ashley Garfield, the multi-talented guard for BYU looked to have a season full of promise and excitement. The star out of Morgan, Utah played well in the first 15 games before a devastating knee injury ended her season in a road game against Loyola Marymount. Ashley had been the Cougars' utility player, doing a little bit of everything in order to help her team succeed, and it would take a committee of players to replace her on the court.
Ashley doesn't remember a time when she didn't love the game of basketball. She would spend hours in the front yard with her brother as she practiced and worked on her game, building her skill and her passion for the game. As a 1st grader she was upset when she found out that there was no girls competition team for her to join, and she was still too young to join the Jr. Jazz program. So she did the only thing she could do, and joined the all-boys competition team for the year.
As she improved her game and tapped into her natural talent, she became a star at Morgan High School and earned a number of awards including two-time region MVP and a nomination as a McDonalds All-American. Being a superb athlete, she spent her high school years dominating on the volleyball court as well, taking home many awards in volleyball.
Although playing basketball at BYU had always been a dream of hers, she didn't really see the reality of it until she started to see recruiters from schools similar to BYU. Once BYU began the recruiting process, it seemed only a matter of time before the coaches offered her a scholarship. Once they did offer, she didn't hesitate and called it a "no-brainer" to accept the offer to stay close to home, join an incredible educational institution, and play with coaches and players she loved.
As she came into the program she faced the same frustrations that many players feel as they try to find a role on the team. Coming into an established program like BYU, Ashley wasn't the only Cougar who was the best player on her high school team. All the other players were as well. During her freshman and sophomore years it was a little bit of a struggle to allow her mindset to recognize that she didn't always need to be the one making plays on the court. As she came to the realization that she didn't need to prove herself or impress the coaches on every play, she was able to just go out and play her game.
Ashley soon found her role increasing as she became more comfortable, going from six minutes a game during her freshman year to more than 27 minutes a game during her senior year. As her minutes increased, so did her contribution to the team on and off the stat sheet. Before the injury, she had increased her rebounding average to 7.5 per game, more than a full rebound better than her junior year. She also improved her scoring (5.1) and assists (2.5) by over one per game.
With the injury ending her season, it has caused a lot of frustration as she is coming to terms with not playing college ball again. With the expectation of another two months of basketball ahead of her, she hasn't really had closure to her season. Although still trying to come to terms with this aspect, she has been on the bench and in the locker room with her teammates as she leads from the bench instead of on the floor. When asked what advice she would give to those athletes facing an injury she said:
"I would just say to younger athletes not to take any time that they have playing for granted. We all hear the cliché saying of "you never know when it could all end," and I always don't have any regrets about the effort that I gave during my time here, but I don't think that there were times when I took for granted the opportunity that I had to play every day. The chance to be healthy, and come to practice, and try to improve is one that should not be taken lightly. But, if you do have to sit out, I would just tell kids to still be a good teammate, and try to still contribute in any way that they can from the bench. You are still as much a part of that team as you were before, just in a different role."
Although the frustrations have been a reality in her career, there have been plenty of highlights both on and off the court. One of her most memorable experiences was when the Cougars made the run in to the Sweet Sixteen. At one point, it hit her that she was on the same court as the legendary UConn Huskies and some of the best players in the country, broadcast on ESPN. Almost a year later, the accomplishment is fresh in her mind and she is still trying to fully grasp what she and the team were able to do last year.
Off the court the friendships and memories being made will be just as, if not more, important than the memories on the court. One of her favorite experiences that takes place off the court is the time she spends with her teammates. Some of her favorite memories are team scripture study when on the road, bus rides, eating out together, and participating in other university events. After spending some time at home while the team traveled has helped solidify her belief, and Coach Judkins' words, that these are the things she will miss the most after basketball is over.
Even though the injury has kept her off the court the last few months, in the long run it may be a benefit to her as she has been able to observe and help the coaches from the sidelines. As she majors in School Health Education with a minor in Physical Education and Coaching, she has a step up as she can pick their brains and use the time learning from her current coaches before she begins her internship in the fall before graduation in December. Learning the ropes from Coach Judkins and his staff will be a big boost for a possible coaching career in the future.
After playing all four years at BYU she hopes to leave a legacy that is not tied to stats or wins, but a legacy of outworking everyone else. She admits that she might not have been the most talented or athletic player on the court, but she made sure she was always the hardest working and toughest player on the court. Ashley will soon be leaving with the knowledge that her legacy was one of hard work and doing whatever was asked of her in order for the team to succeed, and rightfully so.
As she leaves the Cougars in a better position than when she arrived, she has a final bit of advice for young girls that are looking to pursue a basketball career:
"I would just tell them to dream big, and work as hard as they possibly can. Playing college basketball is a full-time job, and as such it's not going to come easy. But, if you put forth the time and effort it is definitely something that you can achieve. Never sell yourself short, or let anyone tell you that you can't do something. If you want it bad enough, there isn't anyone that can stop you but yourself."
Cougar fans will miss seeing her on the court and representing BYU but look forward to seeing her succeed in other aspects of life. Congratulations on a great career and best wishes from Cougar Nation. Thank you, Ashley!
Come back tomorrow for the final senior profile, Morgan Bailey.
If you missed the profile on Xojiän Harry you can read it here.