Jordan Ash's sophomore season didn't start off quite as he expected. The three-star prospect, who holds an offer from Northwestern, had high hopes for his first full varsity campaign with Westchester (IL) St. Joseph. But legendary coach Gene Pingatore had an unexpected plan for his developing point guard.
"Coach Ping had me coming off the bench," said Ash. "He wanted me to learn the system as much as I could. It was kind of frustrating at first, but as the season went on I started playing more and more."
Putting in the requisite work, Ash earned himself a starting role and St. Joe's has picked up their play. Boasting a three-game win streak, the Chargers (15-10) have a chance at the Chicago Catholic-North title Friday night, squaring off with Loyola Academy at home. And as his team picks up momentum, Ash continues to improve.
"I'm at the point where I have to get better at everything," said Ash. "I've been working on my right hand, my shot is coming along. The mental part as well; being a smarter player and leader, [and] being more vocal on the floor."
Ash plays his summer ball with the Illinois Wolves AAU program that produced former NU star John Shurna and current Wildcat Dave Sobolewski, plus commit Nate Taphorn. There's a chance Ash could follow their footsteps to Evanston.
"I talk to [Sobolewski] a lot," said Ash, who explained his friend's recruiting pitch. "[Coming in], he felt he would be comfortable in [Northwestern's] system, could come in and play as a freshman, and really liked the coaching staff."
Ash also holds offers from DePaul and Purdue, citing strong relationships with both staffs. The promising guard has drawn interest from all over the Big Ten, and plans to visit Michigan in the near future. Northwestern associate head coach Tavaras Hardy has also been in Ash's ear.
"Right away, I noticed [Hardy] was a cool guy," said Ash. "He wasn't going to lie, or try and sell me a dream—he was going to be straight up with me."
A strong student, Ash stressed the importance of academics in his eventual choice. During a campus visit last summer, Hardy explained Northwestern's unique advantages.
"The whole visit, he talked about what made him come over as a coach, the whole Chicago scene," Ash explained. "He helped me understand more about the opportunities the players get once they leave Northwestern, [and] the jobs they can get in Chicago."
Among the other schools on Ash's trail are Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Marquette, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Another summer on the AAU circuit should continue to help his stock, but his goals remain team-oriented.
"I'm planning to have a big summer individually and with the Wolves," said Ash. "I think we can play anybody in the country on any day. I just want to win right now."