When Tenino’s soon-to-be senior Ashley Schow was approached by an assistant coach from Central Washington University’s women’s basketball team this spring, she hadn’t even considered the program east of the Cascades in her list of potential landing spots.
Schow, a star basketball player for the Beavers, was practicing with her AAU team, Hoopstars Family, in Olympia when the Central coach began talking to her. They said they liked what they saw and asked for her phone number.
Schow had been talking to a few other schools at the time and figured she’d hear them out. The coaches called her soon after and made it clear right away they were interested in her possibly joining their program.
“They told me they really liked my style of play and they were really excited to come to some of my AAU tournaments and watch me play,” Schow said.
Schow went on an official campus visit in June and met the entire coaching staff. They showed her around the university’s campus in Ellensburg, which felt like a small city compared to her Class 1A high school campus in Tenino. But Ellensburg, which has a population of just over 20,000, is far from a big city and Schow liked the small-town feel.
“I really liked it there and I got really good vibes,” Schow said. “It just seemed like a good fit, especially since Ellensburg is a small town and I’m from a small town so I really liked it.”
She decided to verbally commit soon after the visit later in June, opting to wait until late July to publicly announce her commitment. Central’s coaches were beyond excited when she let them know her decision, especially head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley.
“She told me that I made her month,” Schow said. “Then she ran into the other room and told one of the assistant coaches and she was super excited as well.”
Schow, who first started playing basketball as a second grader just for fun at the Olympia YMCA, never imagined she’d one day be committing to play at a university.
But for those who know her or have seen her play, it’s no surprise.
Schow was named the co-1A Evergreen League MVP after averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, 2.5 steals and 2.5 assists per game for the Beavers in 2021. She led Tenino to an 8-6 overall record and a second-place finish in league.
Though she’s 6-foot-1 and post work is her biggest strength, she can play like someone much smaller, utilizing her elite handles, impressive athleticism and a deadly shooting stroke to cause fits and frustrations for opposing defenses. She’s been playing for AAU teams since sixth grade and it shows.
Tenino coach Scott Ashmore said Schow is the team’s hardest worker, puts in a ton of time in the gym and has made it a point to improve in all facets of her game. When asked what her strengths are on the court, he said she can do everything.
“She’s a reliable ball handler, she’s a good passer, she can shoot inside and she’s starting to step out and hit 3s,” Ashmore said. “That’s added a big facet to her game to where you can’t just guard her with a post anymore because she can get to the basket in multiple ways.
“She can bring it up the court against a press, she’s a very good outlet passer where she’s gotten a rebound, taken a dribble or two and hit girls streaking up the sideline. We get layups because she’s seeing the court really well.”
Schow will be taking those talents and expanding on them with a Central team next year that had most of its 2020-21 season canceled due to the pandemic. The Wildcats went 0-2, losing back-to-back games to rival Western Washington University in March before the season was outright canceled. In 2019-20, the Wildcats were 19-11, advancing to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament where they went 1-1.
One of seven local players chosen for The Chronicle’s 2021 All-Area Girls Basketball Team, Schow said she’s excited to begin her senior season at Tenino and then head to Central and continue her academic and athletic career.
“It’s really relieving that I don’t have to go through the stress of finding somewhere to go,” Schow said. “I’m super excited to play, obviously, and make relationships with my teammates.”