Tuesday, March 10, 1998

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Brandi Ashby, left, defends against Fresno's Janee Young.

Daughter knew best

Brandi Ashby's decision
to play for UH was right
for her and the Wahine

By Al Chase


Milton and Deanna Ashby sat sipping coffee in the MGM Grand Hotel last Friday morning. They quietly expressed the thought that maybe they had watched daughter Brandi play her last collegiate basketball game two days earlier against New Mexico.

Not until they arrived back in Sebree, Ky., late Monday would they learn the Ashby family travels were not over. There would barely be time to do laundry and pack for another trip, this time to the NCAA West Regional at Stanford, Calif.

The Ashbys have managed to watch Brandi play quite a bit of basketball for the University of Hawaii Wahine the last two seasons.

There have been automobile trips to Oklahoma and Texas and numerous airline trips to the Rocky Mountain states. Only the Wahine's California trips have been skipped, until this weekend.

They began the 1997-98 season with a six-week stay in Honolulu for the four-tournament, 10-game UH preseason schedule. It included home schooling for Emily, age 13, and Tyler, age 11, and graduation for Brandi and her older sister Michelle.

None of the above would have happened, if, in part, Brandi's stay at Western Kentucky had been different or Milton had not experienced a change of heart.

During Brandi's senior year at Webster County High School she was named Miss Kentucky Basketball. There were scholarship offers from more than 100 Division I schools.

Brandi made recruiting trips to Hawaii, Long Beach State, Kentucky and Michigan. But going to Western Kentucky had always been her goal. She had attended basketball camps there several summers.

It was a prestigious program, always in the top 25, and made an annual trip to the NCAA tournament.

"We're a close family and she knew she would have so much family support if she went to Western Kentucky," Deanna said. "Aunts, uncles, grand parents, everyone lives within 100 miles of the school."

But everything changed after Brandi (accompanied by her father) made her recruiting trip to UH. Suddenly there was another university and basketball program that peaked Brandi's interest.

However, a weekend recruiting trip did not afford Milton the opportunity to experience and know Hawaii like he does now. He was against Brandi coming to UH.

"Hell, she was going to be half way around the world, about as far as you can go and stay in the country," Milton said. "I was afraid she would have problems, be homesick, you know."

And, Sebree, a town of 2,000 where you know who lives in every house, is definitely different from Honolulu.

Deanna, however, was in favor of Brandi accepting Hawaii's scholarship offer.

"You've got to understand this whole family is crazy about the water. We're always at the beach," Deanna said. "I thought Brandi was mature enough for the move. I thought it was a once in a lifetime chance.

"I had bad karma about Western. Maybe it was mother's intuition."

While Brandi pondered her decision, Milton and Deanna thought it best not to share their inner thoughts which favored different solutions.

"We didn't want to influence her decision," Milton said.

With national letter of intent day looming, Brandi finally decided on a Sunday night. She let her parents know by ringing the front doorbell. When they opened the door she was in a Western Kentucky uniform.

Yet, on the day she signed, Brandi said something to her mother.

"She said, 'I'm seeing waves,' " Deanna said.

Brandi's time at Western Kentucky was not enjoyable. She played little her freshman season. A meeting between her coach, Paul Sanderford, and her parents at season's end quickly turned nasty.

Still, Ashby worked hard that summer, but by Christmas of her sophomore year she had decided to leave Western Kentucky.

"Her coach told her she was making a mistake. He said no one leaves his program. If they aren't successful with him, they won't be anywhere else," Milton said.

"Brandi asked me who would want her. I remembered the handwritten letter (UH associate coach) George Wolfe sent after Brandi signed. I dug it out and basically it said if things didn't work out, give him a call."

After checking with the NCAA, contact was made with the UH coaches. Milton took a five-minute tape (all they could put together of Brandi's two seasons at Western Kentucky) to Reno, Nev., where UH was playing. Ashby transferred to Hawaii the following year.

"Now I'm sorry she wasn't at UH for four years," Milton said.

"Brandi is not a quitter or a sitter," Deanna said. "It was gutsy to leave Western Kentucky, but the child wanted to play basketball."

NCAA West Regional

° First round: Hawaii (24-3) vs. Arkansas (18-10)

° When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

° Where: Maples Pavilion, Palo Alto, Calif.

° Television: ESPN2

1997-98 Wahine Basketball Schedule

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