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ND Women’s Basketball: Barlow has basketball in her blood

Bill Brink | Thursday, February 7, 2008

All college athletes run short on time, and Ashley Barlow was no exception. She had an interview followed by a film study session, but her priorities were elsewhere: First, she had to make a shot.

The sophomore guard airballed two from half-court – she swears she made one earlier, on her first shot of the day – before settling for the 3-point line. She missed three or four, fixing each errant shot with a stare as if the ball had disobeyed her instructions by veering away from the hoop. After knocking one down from near the top of the key, she could finally talk.

Her perseverance wouldn’t have surprised Irish coach Muffet McGraw.

“I think she’s just the most determined player I’ve ever had,” McGraw said. “That’s the single word that always comes to mind when I look at her.”

It was unusual to see Barlow miss that many consecutive shots. She recently led the Irish in scoring in four straight games, starting against Villanova on Jan. 16 and ending against No. 1 Connecticut on Jan. 27. In Notre Dame’s 104-86 win at Georgetown on Jan. 19, she scored 21 points, one shy of her career high, on 7-of-9 shooting. She then reset that career mark against DePaul on Jan. 22, dropping 23 and going 8-of-12 from the field.

Since opposing defenses sometimes key on senior guard Charel Allen, Barlow, “almost in a quiet way, will get 20 points,” McGraw said.

“Generally she just scores out of the offense,” McGraw said. “She offensive rebounds, she scores on the break, but I think she has felt she’s taken a little more of an aggressive approach to the offense.”

Barlow said when her shot is falling, she feels more comfortable shooting the 3.

“But when it’s not,” she said, “I would more than love to get to the basket and shoot layups all day.”

On the season, Barlow averages 12.9 points per game and shoots 48.5 percent from the field. During that four-game streak, she averaged 18.8 points per game and hit 57 percent of her field goals. Her shot, which she’s been working on all summer, came through for her at the right time, Barlow said.

“I think my shot was just falling for me, and I was getting to the basket and getting some foul shots up too,” she said. “The more repetitions I have, the better it will continue to get.”

Barlow learned the game when she was young. Her father David was a referee, and Barlow would attend his games as a kid. She said she always had a ball in her hand.

“I think it just came from me being a gym rat, just being in the gym all the time,” Barlow said.

It wasn’t just her father who was involved with athletics. Her cousin, Ken, played forward for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team from 1982-86, and her brother David was an all-conference point guard at IUPUI from 2003-07. Her uncle, Ron, played fullback for Kansas State in 1963-64 and was chosen by the New York Jets in the 1965 American Football League redshirt draft.

When a family has that type of athletic background, McGraw said, the support is often stronger, and family members understand the pressures and difficulties of collegiate sports.

“I think you see people who understand that it’s going to be hard, and you really have to be ready,” she said. “There’s a responsibility and accountability from the player. They get it. They understand what it’s like.”

Still, Barlow said she never felt pressure because of her family’s athletic pedigree. Her affinity for basketball came from “just being there, just because,” she said.

Barlow put her gym time to good use when she played for The Family, a highly ranked AAU team, the summer before her senior year at Pike High School in Indianapolis. The Family went 40-1 that summer and won four of the five tournaments in which it played. McGraw attributed The Family’s success to Barlow’s play.

“Their only successful year was when Ashley played for them,” McGraw said. “In terms of national success, she elevated their program. They won a lot more tournaments than they ever had before. She really made a huge difference in how they progressed.”

Barlow enjoyed the travel associated with AAU ball as well as the chance to meet people, both teammates and opponents – she played against Connecticut’s Tina Charles and Lorin Dixon, among others. The speed of the game and the high level of her opponents, Barlow said, mirrored collegiate competition.

“It was the same fast pace, it was athletic people,” she said. “It was pretty much the same as this.”

At a time when the Irish (17-5, 5-3 Big East) have lost four of their last nine after opening the season 12-1, and with eight games remaining until the conference tournament, Barlow knows she and her team can improve.

“We need to pick up on the defensive end, all of us do, but me in particular,” she said. “Getting out to the three-point line, containing the ball, all that. Rebounding hasn’t been as good as it was last year.”

Preaching improved defense and rebounding, Barlow sounded like a true McGraw student. McGraw laughed at the correlation and said Barlow was a good defender, but still could improve.

“I felt that she would be a great defender. She has the ability to be a good defender, but she could get a little bit better at that,” McGraw said. “I think because offensively she’s playing pretty well, she doesn’t have to work on that as much, so she can always get better defensively.”

McGraw summarized Barlow’s importance to the team not in terms of her scoring ability or defensive play, but by describing her attitude.

“She’s smart, she’s just really determined. She hates to lose,” McGraw said. “She’s competitive, she’s going to do anything she can – whether it’s taking a charge, or tracking down a loose ball, or diving for something or shooting. She’s a great teammate and a great team player.”