Feb. 27, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, NC – Fayetteville State’s Shuanda Ashford (Sr., Fayetteville, NC) has been a force in her first season on the hardwood for the Lady Broncos. The 6-1 forward came to Fayetteville State University in 2011-12 after spending three seasons at East Carolina University. She looks to lead FSU to its fourth conference championship in program history this week at the CIAA Tournament in Charlotte.
Her lone season with Fayetteville State has been a productive one as she was named to the 2013 All-CIAA Women’s Basketball Team. She finishes second on the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game and pulls down 7 rebounds per game. She has earned multiple CIAA Newcomer of the Week honors this season.
The Lady Broncos captured the program’s first Southern Division Title under Head Coach Eva Patterson-Heath this season after going 22-4 overall and 14-2 in conference play. FSU tied for first in the division with Shaw University at 8-2 but received the South’s top seed courtesy of a better conference record.
Ashford has enjoyed the experience of playing for the Lady Broncos this season. Not only has she garnered success with the team but also gets to play in front of her family every home game.
“It has been a very exciting experience to be back home in Fayetteville and playing in front of my family and friends; and being successful here with the program,” she said.
After finding out that she could play one more year of college basketball, Ashford quickly contacted Patterson-Heath about the possibility of playing at Fayetteville State. The idea of playing in her hometown was a big factor in her decision; but Ashford also credits the fourth-year Head Coach with aiding her in the process.
“Of course I am from Fayetteville so that was all the more motivation for me to come back home,” she said. “After I learned that I had a year of eligibility left, I immediately contacted Coach Patterson-Heath to let her know that I was interested in joining the team. She worked with me real well. It helped me get where I am.”
Prior to her time both at Fayetteville State and East Carolina, Ashford was a 2006 McDonald’s All-American nominee at E.E. Smith High School. She earned All-Conference and All-Cape Fear Region as a senior and playing in the NCHSAA Sectional Finals during her junior season. Ashford received varsity letters in three sports at E.E. Smith including basketball, volleyball and track. She earned All-Conference honors in volleyball as a junior. Ashford came out of high school as the 58th-ranked power forward in the nation according to Mike White’s All-Star Girls Report.
Ashford enjoys having the family watch her play at Fayetteville State. Having them at the games reminds her of her prep days at E.E. Smith; it is a sense of familiarity for her. She loves every minute of it.
“Just like when I was in high school, my family always came to watch me play,” she stated. “It is really exhilarating to have all of them come, enjoy the game and just watch me play. I am grateful for the opportunity that I have and I love where I landed.”
The Lady Broncos have turned in an impressive performance so far in 2012-13. FSU enters the 2013 CIAA Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte as the South’s top seed. Two big wins of the season came against opponents ranked in the USA Today Sports Division II Top 25 Coaches Poll. Nova Southeastern was ranked 17th nationally and Shaw ninth when it was defeated by Fayetteville State.
Ashford still has fond memories of those victories because of the hard work and preparation that were put into achieving the wins away from Felton J. Capel Arena. She feels that the victories can lead to bigger and better things as the conference tournament prepares to tip off.
“When I think about those games, I just smile because of the team work, the hard work and everything that we have been going through in practice and all is actually coming together in the games,” she said. “We are showing ourselves that we are capable of actually winning the CIAA Tournament and the National Championship for the Division II level. We are happy, excited, anxious and nervous; but we are having fun right now.”
She transferred to Fayetteville State last year but did not participate in any games. Ashford spent that time getting to know her teammates and allowing the players to do the same. She feels that helped her leading into this season as both sides were familiar and comfortable with each other. The team has become a family now.
“I think my role last year kind of helped me to get a better bond with the girls, and even with the transfers coming in last year. I was able to hang around with them,” she said. “It helped that I got closer to them and they were able to see the person and basketball player that I am. My teammates look for me and I look for them. I love them like they are sisters.”
Ashford knows, despite the successful regular season, that the Lady Broncos have to stay focus on the goal at-hand. She feels that anything is possible as long as the team takes it one game at a time.
”We can’t get too anxious right now,” she said. “We have to stay focused on everything that is ahead of us. We are focusing on the next game in front of us. If we do that and take our time and play together, we are going to be unstoppable.”