By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
Ashley White is the smallest player on the court for the Lady Rams of Bluefield.
Her impact, however, is as large as the city she is from.
White, a 5-foot-3 senior point guard from Philadelphia, has been a key cog for Bluefield, which was picked to finish last in its first season in the Mid-South Conference.
“That was a lot of motivation,” White said.
Instead, the Lady Rams are 12-4, including a 4-2 mark in the league, currently sitting in a tie for third place in a conference with five teams — not including Bluefield — ranked among the top 25 teams in NAIA.
“It was like we have to prove ourselves now,” White said. “I think that is what we are doing right now.”
Heading into tonight’s Mid-South contest at Lindsey Wilson, White is second for Bluefield in scoring with 14.3 points per game, and leads the squad with 3.5 assists.
She understands her role, as a player who has to get her teammates involved, and she does that by bringing occasional ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience in watching her ability to penetrate and dish the ball to the open shooter, or simply putting up a shot in traffic against players who are always taller than her.
“I am a point guard that scores as well, but I like to get my teammates involved too,” said White, who is also providing 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and has even blocked four shots this season.
She reached 26 points in a win over No. 6 Georgetown last month, and also had 11 assists against Allen. White also has highs of eight rebounds and four steals in games this year.
The Philadelphia native started her collegiate career at Tallahassee Community College in Florida, and later moved to Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga.
When Bluefield College head coach M.J. Baker went looking for a point guard to add to such talented players as NCCAA All-America Tequila McNeal, White was willing to listen, and that made for a happy coach.
“Ashley White, who we call ‘Penny’, she is our backbone,” Baker said. “Between her and Tequila McNeal, they hold us together, they are our toughness and they make us go.
“Without her I don’t know where we would be right now.”
Especially with a roster that has been decimated with injuries. Bluefield won two games last week with six and seven players available, including a soccer player who suddenly became part of the Lady Rams’ basketball team.
That wasn’t a problem for the Lady Rams, and White was the perfect example. She might be small in stature, but White’s heart is tall, as she proved in last Saturday’s 79-54 win over Pikeville, providing 14 points, eight assists and four steals, and also pulled down five rebounds in 31 minutes on the floor.
“It is more focus on the heart, that is what they teach you,” White said. “You don’t have anybody to sub in for you so you have to do what you have to do.”
There are no complaints from the Rams. They have simply had to step their games up, and it has shown, with four Bluefield players reaching double figures in scoring against Pikeville and two had at least 10 boards.
“We knew what we had to do in practice to put ourselves toward the game,” White said. “I think we are doing a good job with it.”
It’s not just White. McNeal leads the Rams with 15.3 points a game, while Janee Simmons is tallying 11.4 points a contest, along with a team-leading 7.9 rebounds. Monique Robson is percentage points from also reaching double digits on the season.
White knew coming to Bluefield that the talent was there for a productive season, and she has especially enjoyed playing with McNeal.
“(McNeal) is a very fun player, we push each other a lot,” White said. “In practice I guard her and she guards me so when we get in the game we know what to expect, but she is a good player and a great defender.”
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for White in Bluefield hasn’t been the basketball — after all she has played all her life — but trying to adjust to a tiny town after being raised in the big city.
“I actually like it, it is very peaceful and the people here are nice and they welcomed me in,” White said. “It is just very country, I am used to the big city, the big lights. Here it is really quiet and sometimes very boring, but I am adjusting.
“We hang out at our coach’s house, we have movie night, we do a lot of team stuff together and we bond.”
There are many who thought the Lady Rams would struggle in the Mid-South, but White never faltered, always believing that her lone season in Bluefield could be a special one on the court.
“I expected us too,” White said. “I knew coming in we just had to get everybody molded together and come together as a one.”
That togetherness is what White thinks could make the difference as the season winds down to the postseason in February.
“I think we can do a lot. We just have to stay focused on our goal and that is sticking together as one and becoming more of a team on and off the court,” White said. “That will keep us together and push us toward the playoffs.”
—Contact Brian Woodson