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Northwestern men’s basketball player previews: G Jordan Ash

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A senior co-captain, Ash hasn’t had the chance to assert himself on offense.

NCAA Basketball: Chicago State at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Who he is:

Senior; guard; 6-foot-3; 200 pounds; Bolingbrook, Ill.

The stats:

2.1 points per game; 12.7 minutes; 1.2 rebounds; 0.7 assists; .365/.324/.600 shooting splits

2017-2018 review:

Jordan Ash saw the biggest increase in minutes of any returning player from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018. During his sophomore season, Ash barely saw the court, charting only 3.8 minutes per game, but by the heart of his junior season, he found himself becoming a regular contributor, making four starts and averaging 12.7 minutes.

His offensive production was not ultimately what earned him minutes, but instead, his defensive aptitude allowed him to pass Isiah Brown and become Bryant McIntosh’s backup. Unfortunately, Ash suffered a lower-body injury late in the year and missed the final seven games of the season. The injury ultimately prevented him from having the opportunity to start when McIntosh went down.

While the increase in minutes was a positive step for Ash’s career, his inability to produce on offense has not changed much over his three years. With McIntosh gone, Brown’s decision to transfer and Jordan Lathon’s revoked admission, Ash finally has the opportunity to prove himself and will hold a leadership role as one of three captains this season.

Strengths:

Ash’s greatest strength, and what earns him most of his playing time, is his defensive prowess. When Northwestern’s guards struggled defensively last season, Ash assumed his role as a primarily defensive player, especially when defending the dribble drive. Northwestern will continue to utilize his defensive ability during Ash’s senior season. He also became a credible threat from deep, making 11-of-31 shots from beyond the arc last year.

Weaknesses:

While Ash is an asset on defense, he is somewhat of a liability on offense. He has made some minor improvements over his career but has yet to see any drastic increase in point production. He has also struggled to capitalize on his strengths in the past offensively. Ash hasn’t been particularly demonstrative offensively because of the players he has shared the court with. Ash was the only NU player to finish with a usage rate below 12 percent last year. He’s a credible shooter and an athletic finisher, but we just don’t have a lot of data points for Ash offensively. Ultimately, Bryant McIntosh is one major reason why Ash has struggled to produce offensively in the past because his role was limited as a backup. If he wants to assume a starting role this season, especially as a point guard, he must produce more offensively both by creating for himself and for his teammates.

Expectations:

As a senior captain this season, Ash has the potential to play a major role on the team. Early in the offseason, Ash appeared to be competing with Lathon for the starting role, who was supposed to be the future of Northwestern point guards. After the Wildcats and Lathon parted ways, Ash’s remaining competition is freshman Ryan Greer, who graduated high school early to join the squad. Transitioning from a shortened high school career to the Big Ten could present some difficulty for Greer early on and will likely result in Ash receiving the starting role. There’s also a good chance Collins will do away with a conventional point guard and have players like Vic Law, A.J. Turner, and Ryan Taylor bring the ball up the floor.

Nothing is guaranteed, and Ash will have to improve his offensive game this year to earn and maintain a major role on the team. Averaging just over 2 points and 1 assist per game is not enough for a starting point guard, so he will need to show major improvements early on. If he is able to produce offensively, he will not only be a huge defensive threat but also an offensive asset that the Wildcats can consistently depend on.