One member of the basketball team, whose dedication to developing himself, his team and the entire University of Dallas community, shines through in his words and actions: Philip Ashton III, a senior basketball player in his final season at UD.
Since the third grade, Ashton has been playing basketball every year that he could, from middle school to high school. Facing a challenge by skipping eighth grade and going directly from middle school basketball at a small school to playing with much older, larger high school players, Ashton worked hard to get to where he is today. It was tough for him to get playtime in high school, even when he reached the varsity level.
Ashton, however, credits his drive and determination to succeed in college to that same disadvantage.
“This is something I’ve been working at for over 10 years,” Ashton said in an interview on Thursday, Aug. 27. “I don’t want that to end now, I want this to last as long as possible, and I will do anything I can.”
But that necessary work ethic is also what he enjoys about the sport, even though it may be tiring. Between practicing for two hours in the morning, attending classes and then practicing again a few hours later, some days on the basketball team are both mentally and physically exhausting.
“But that makes it worth it,” Ashton said. “Knowing that you’re going through it with your team, and you’re all getting better for it, that makes it worth it. That’s the enjoyment of basketball.”
Ashton’s dedication to the sport as well as to his community sheds light onto his personality off the court. To him, basketball is incredibly important, but so is his relationship with each of his teammates.
As the dangers of COVID-19 continue to restrict on-campus events nationwide, many aspects of sports are getting canceled. “So far, the plan is that we’re going to start our season in early January,” Ashton said. “We’re going to have a month of official practice starting October, but everything is tentative.”
With the help of basketball Coach Jarred Samples and their team leaders, the team has developed a plan. From running drills in small groups to playing pickup with the whole team, Ashton is participating in as much court experience as possible to prepare for the start of the hoped-for season. Ashton stressed the need to stay safe and conscious of his surroundings.
“We definitely spend a lot more time solely with the team. We can’t lock everyone in our conference into a specific area, but we can watch out who we’re going out with, and being self conscious about that.” Ahston said. “We have to focus on making this season actually happen. If we have to shut down this semester, all of our plans for next year are up in the air — we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Ashton reported that other members of the team agree, and are keeping their circle tight in hopes of setting an example for the student body.
Most sports at UD are heavily focused on teamwork and morale, and basketball is no different. As one of the guards on the UD basketball team, Ashtonis always watching out for his teammates. He believes heavily in the camaraderie he shares with them, and emphasizes doing things together to get in “the zone.”
“My mentality going into every season has been ‘what can i do for the team?’ or ‘how can I make the team better?’” Ashton said. “Whether that means I play the entire game or sit at the end of the bench just screaming, yelling for people to rebound, trying to communicate better makes no difference to me. I don’t care about my minutes, or how many points I score, I just care about this team doing as well as we possibly can.”
Over the summer, Ashtonspent a lot of his time educating himself and keeping up with current events.
“We had a lot going on between the pandemic and the protests, and even now with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake,” Ashton said. “We can see that the issues clearly aren’t going away, so a lot of my time was spent reaching out to a lot of people affected by this.”
Aiming to be a positive change in his community, he spent his free time giving back to his communities, family and social groups by raising awareness about current issues in the U.S.
“A lot of it was telling people that we don’t have the same experience as some of the other people in this country,” He added. “And a lot of it is just reaching out and being a decent human being and actually caring. Maybe I can’t change everything at once, but I can show these people and communities that I support them and stand with them.” His teammate Jai Love also spoke to Ahston’s care:
“He’s been there for the team always. Not just from a basketball standpoint, but in life. Especially for me during the summer with everything going on in society, that’s my guy.”
Ashton is a prime example of a student-athlete that shines at UD, who cares greatly for both his community and his goals. To him, speaking up and affecting change are things possible for anyone our age. Ashton encourages everyone to be agents of change by exercising their right to vote in the upcoming elections.
“Everyone has to do their part,” he restated. “Right now, people are focused on what’s been taken away from them, and what they can’t do. I think we really need to as a community within UD and even as a country need to start appreciating what we can do now. A lot was taken away from us, but we can choose to start focusing on what we do have instead of what we don’t.”
Ashton’s unwavering dedication to both his team and his sport showcases his integrity. He values teamwork over pure performance, which both raises morale and marks a better experience for everyone. This also directly translates into his commitment to his community, marking him as an understanding person who cares about the wellbeing of others. His desire to have a final season at UD is twofold, split between his desire to play and an underlying emphasis on keeping the UD community safe.
“Everyone on the team is putting in extra effort into being a lot safer, a lot more self-conscious about where we’re going, who we’re hanging out with. And that puts an extra layer of responsibility on each player,” Ashton said. “It brings us closer together in a way that makes this season much more important.”