116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MOUNT VERNON - The methodical sounds of bouncing basketballs and squeaking shoes fill the humid gym as he works to perfect his skills.
Sweat drips from his arms as he breaks right and pulls up for a shot. He grabs the rebound and runs back to the top of the key. His undeniable passion for the game is coursing through his veins as he thinks about his future as an Iowa Hawkeye.
Mount Vernon senior Austin Ash has been playing organized basketball since he was 4 years old.
'I played before then, but nothing more than just fiddling with a ball,” Ash said. 'I used to attend my dad's practices every day, and he put a ball in my crib when I was born.”
Starting out at the local YMCA, Ash played with the older kids to begin advancing his skills at an early age.
'My dad was always my coach growing up,” Ash said. 'He first put together a team when I was in second grade, consisting of kids in the Cedar Rapids area.”
When he was 7 years old, Ash's parents had a picture painted in his bedroom.
'It is a painting of a little boy falling asleep after a long day of practicing, and he is dreaming of becoming an Iowa basketball player,” Ash said. 'It says, ‘A boy, a ball, a dream.' My parents knew how much I loved basketball, so I guess it was just more motivation.”
During his freshman year of high school, Ash played on the Mount Vernon JV basketball team.
'It was a great year,” he said. 'Coach (Jason) Pershing was our coach and I really enjoyed playing for him.
'It was a fun year with a lot of great guys.”
Sophomore year was when Ash first started playing varsity basketball.
'It was my first year on varsity so I was a little nervous coming into the season,” he said. 'I thought we had a great team that year, and I really started to become more assertive as the season went on.”
Ash finished his sophomore season averaging 9.0 points per game, with a 77.8 free throw percentage and a 46.1 3-point percentage.
'This past year, my junior year season, was really special,” he said. 'We got off to a tough start, but we really hit our stride later on in the season. We ended up winning the Wamac Conference and that is something that I will always remember. I loved all the guys on that team and wish the season would have never ended.”
Ash finished the 2015 season leading the team in points per game (16.0) and in free throw percentage (88.4). He also had 60 assists, 31 steals and 4 blocks.
In the offseason, Ash plays club basketball with the Iowa Barnstormers. He traveled around the country, playing in tournaments in Las Vegas, California, Chicago, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
'I have been playing with the Iowa Barnstormers since I was in 7th grade,” he said. 'Playing with that team is a great experience and I have made a lot of great friends for life.”
In August, Ash received a phone call from Iowa head basketball coach Fran McCaffery.
'He told me that he wanted me to be a part of his program down at Iowa and he offered me the preferred walk on spot,” Ash said. 'After I received the call, I sat down and talked to my family about it and we realized that Iowa was the best place for me. It was always my dream to play there, ever since I was a little kid.”
Over the years, Ash has developed lasting relationships with his various coaches, teammates and fans.
'My best coach growing up would have to be my dad, because he has helped me so much with my game throughout my career,” Ash said. 'He has always motivated me to get better every day and was willing to put in the time when I was younger.”
Playing in countless tournaments with various teams has introduced Ash to a multitude of teammates and opponents.
'My best teammates were Connor Herrmann, Tommy Hook and Adam Ketelsen. Playing games with those guys is something I will remember forever,” he said. 'Not just on the court either, whether it was staying up late in the hotel playing cards or going out to eat, I have made a lot of memories with them.”
Embracing the ups and downs of every athletic career, Ash has relied on the endless support from his family.
'My best fans would have to be my mom, grandma and grandpa,” he said. 'All three of these people mean a lot to me and have supported me through thick and thin. My mom will rebound for me outside any night of the week and my grandpa would come to every event possible to support me. My grandma has also supported me a lot and comes to nearly all of my games.”
Throughout his career, Ash has proved that with hard work, support and persistent passion, all things are possible. With his experience and dedication to the game of basketball, his opportunities are endless with his future at the University of Iowa.
'Basketball has taken me to a lot of new places and I am very grateful for that. I have also made friendships with teammates and opponents that will last a lifetime. I have learned that this game can be taken away from you at any time, so you should treat every game like it is your last, because it goes by fast.”