McNamara grad grows into college role
With help from father, coaches, Spriggs becomes leader at UNC-Charlotte
University of North Carolina-Charlotte women's basketball coach Karin Aston has a phobia whenever the 49ers' lineup doesn't include Mitchellville resident Ashley Spriggs.
"I don't feel comfortable when she's not on the floor," Aston said. "At times she's been asked to guard the other team's best player, and that's the thing I admire most about her [it's] that not only is she asked to guard the team's best player, but she's leading our teams in minutes right now."
Spriggs, a 2006 graduate of Bishop McNamara High School, has used a dedicated approach to carve out her role at UNC-Charlotte. A Gazette-Star All-County Second Team selection in 2006, Spriggs began her college career with high expectations, coming from a prep program that was near the top of the USA Today Super 25 national rankings during her high school days.
"[Former 49ers coach Amanda] Butler instilled the aggressiveness I have on defense," Spriggs said. "I was scared. She put me in the game during crunch-time situations to get defensive stops, and that's what I did."
Now a senior, Spriggs has made strides over the years. The 49ers are currently 15-10 (8-3 in the Atlantic 10 Conference), and Spriggs leads the team at 32 minutes per game. She is second on the team in points at just less than 10 per game, and is second on the team in steals and blocks.
A psychology major, Spriggs said her biggest hurdle was developing the mentality necessary to play at the college level.
"It's a mental jump more than anything," Spriggs said of the difference between high school and college. "Physically, we were running the same drills that we run now when I was in the ninth grade. Mentally I had to realize when you walk out between the lines, there's no classification, really."
Spriggs said she applies some of the principles she's learned in psychology to help herself and her teammates.
"I learned there very different ways to get through to [teammates], to motivate them at crunch-time or away from the court in general," Spriggs said.
Aston, in her third season as the 49ers' coach, has grown fond of Spriggs because of her work ethic.
"What she brings to the table and how she's evolved as a person and player is something I respect greatly," Aston said. "I think her skill level is so much better than it was when I got here. At first, she didn't have much of an ability to catch and shoot and she was unsure about ball handling. Now she handles the ball better and that has enabled her to become more comfortable facing the basket. It's simply time in the gym, lots of time in the gym."
But Spriggs had some help along the way from someone with experience playing at the highest level of college basketball. Her father Ed Spriggs played with nationally ranked Georgetown University from 1978-1982 under coaching legend John Thompson II.
Ed Spriggs has worked with his daughter during the past three offseasons.
"I tried to help her fill what I thought was going to be her role with the team," Ed Spriggs said. "Her position was probably more of a [power forward or small forward]. I helped her work on things to improve her ball-handling, perimeter play and shooting. She was very receptive to it. I told her to take in what the coaches were saying to her, not how they were saying it because sometimes coaches can be harsh in the way they say things and may use profanity."
"My dad had a lot to do with my development as a player," Ashley said. "I tend to go to him a lot. I talked to him to find out more efficient ways to play. He taught me what being an effective captain was about."
E-mail Terron Hampton at firstname.lastname@example.org.