Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Wednesday, January 9, 2002

Big decision putting
the juke on Lelie

WHAT is Ashley Lelie thinking about? What must be going through his mind as he lays in bed, staring upward into the dark for answers, the possibilities tumbling 'round and 'round in his brain?

They must swirl, all around and everywhere, like a swarm of bees.

He can't catch them. He can't swat them away. And they won't stop buzzing.

He's running out of time.

He has to make up his mind.

And he lays in bed, staring upward into the dark for answers.

What would you do?

It's so easy, it's all so simple, isn't it? You'd run off to the pros, into the sunset, or you'd return for more college glory. Your decision, whatever it would be, is already made.

But for Lelie it's real, and irrevocable, and not so simple at all.

Lelie has heard something from everyone, and all of it makes sense, at least a little.

He could go as high as the second round.

Or he could fall to the fourth or fifth.

He could become a millionaire.

He could become a piece of meat.

This could be his best chance. This could be his last chance. This could be his only chance.

But oh, how much he'd have to give up!

All the advice must sound like the Tower of Babel. Try sleeping with that in your ear.

HE MISSED THIS part the first time around, during college recruiting. Then, there was only one choice and nothing to lose.

Now there's so much to consider: What underclassmen are coming out. Guessing the best time to make the leap. Projections and mock drafts, 40 times and seasoning, injuries and insurance.

And perhaps most of all, you snooze, you lose. You shame, you starve.

But only Lelie knows what it felt like on that magical Saturday night, when he adjusted in mid-air, snatched destiny out of the night sky and settled back to earth with one foot safely planted on sacred ground. And then it all exploded -- the stadium, the state, his heart, everything.

So much happiness all at once, going off like an atom bomb. Every arm in the house raised to the heavens because Hawaii and Lelie had done the impossible again.

"That's amazing," Nick Rolovich said then, stunned by Lelie's Fresno State miracles. "That's amazing."

"I don't know how I did it," Lelie said that night.

These are among the best years of his life. And now he's considering cutting them short by one.

Only Lelie knows what that feels like, too.

THAT'S the hardest part. It has to come from within, everyone says. He's getting advice but not direction, they say. He thought he'd come to a decision, but then, pondering such a lifetime move, he had to hear a few more things, had to think a few more thoughts.

He has gone from almost certainly staying to exploring his options to being not sure of what to do.

And he ponders, time running out, his greatest days perhaps behind him, perhaps ahead. He gambles either way, and knows it.

Maybe his mind is made up today. Maybe it will come the next day, or the next.

We can only guess what he must be thinking as he lays there in the night.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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