Wright State basketball: Newcomer Ash fitting in well with Raiders

Wright State senior Jordan Ash, a transfer from Northwestern, during a game earlier this season vs. Indiana State. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics
Wright State senior Jordan Ash, a transfer from Northwestern, during a game earlier this season vs. Indiana State. Joseph Craven/WSU Athletics

Wright State coach Scott Nagy had plenty of stars he could talk about from an 85-62 rout of Southern last week. But one of his players he was most eager to praise didn’t even score a point.

Starting in place of the injured Bill Wampler, Jordan Ash went 0-for-2 from the field but had four assists, three rebounds and one steal without committing a turnover in 25 minutes — and was just happy to contribute to a win.

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“He handles the ball like a point guard. He’s incredibly strong. He’s a good passer. And he’s a real unselfish guy,” Nagy said. “If he scores, he’s OK. If he doesn’t score, he’s all right.”

The grad transfer from Northwestern, who had a season-high nine points against Indiana State on Dec. 7, was expected to provide some maturity for a team relying on plenty of youth. He's a battle-tested fifth-year senior, after all.

But Nagy said: “Even more than that, he’s a little bit of an old soul. It’s less about his age, and more about his personality.”

An old soul is defined as someone wise beyond his years, a person who can appreciate things his peers might dismiss.

Yep, Ash said, that’s a description that probably fits.

“The funny thing is, a high percentage of people say that about me,” he said. “I think growing up, I was always around my parents and grandparents. I’ve learned a lot really fast. At a young age, I was really ahead of my time mentally, and that’s maybe where it comes from.”

He laughed and added: “I’d rather be an old soul than have people say I’m an immature kid.”

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The 6-foot-3, 205-pound guard from the Chicago suburb of Bolingbrook, picked up his first scholarship offer by the time he was 14 and was pursued by top schools while leading St. Joseph High School to an Illinois state title.

He played behind two All-Big Ten guards at Northwestern. And when a quad injury limited him to 10 games as a senior, he knew he wanted to apply for a medical redshirt year and find another school with a winning tradition.

He looked at the Raiders, who have claimed a Horizon League tourney title and a conference regular-season crown the last two years, as an ideal fit, although his first few weeks on campus last summer were a little rough.

“I was the only new guy. It was hard to fit in, figure out what my role was. In workouts, you can’t really tell a lot. Then we went to Italy (for an exhibition tour), and that helped a lot, getting those games in and being on the floor with those guys,” he said.

“We’re only 11 games in now, so my rhythm is still getting there. But I love my experience here so far. It’s allowed me to get back to just playing basketball at its core.

“The guys on the team love playing and love working. The coaches love the sport. There’s a high level of attention here on being a championship team. That’s something I want to be a part of.”

He’s made a favorable impression on his teammates. Though he came from a big-time conference, he’s displayed humility in accepting whatever role that’s needed.

“Jordan is a Swiss Army Knife. He does a little bit of everything for us,” redshirt freshman Grant Basile said. “We can put him out there on a guard or a ‘big.’ It doesn’t matter. He’s going to play hard. He’s a really, really good athlete, a good defender. He’ll get downhill on you. He’s a really talented player.”

Though Ash has an amiable attitude, those who have tangled with him in practice know he also has a fierce competitive spirit.

“He’s a load,” freshman Tanner Holden said. “He’s a big ol’ boy. It definitely helps me going against him and having to be physical.”

TUESDAY’S GAME

Mississippi Valley State at Wright State, 7 p.m., 106.5