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For 94 feet

Ashley cutting the net after winning the 2020 SUNYAC Championship. Photo Credit: Sam Cherubin

Every angle on the court provides a different perspective. Fans in the stands see the product. Referees on the sidelines see the mistakes. Coaches on the bench see the active hands on defense. But, returning guard Danny Ashley sees the game that changed his life.

Head coach Joe Clarke remembers recruiting Ashley back in 2018. The Nassau County Player of the Year caught the eyes of the Brockport coaching staff immediately. It was his defensive efforts and winning mentality that led to his seamless transition from high school to college ball.  

“We didn’t know he would be this good,” Clarke said. “We did, but while you can say that, you have to show it and he did right away. 94 feet from the inbound, that’s just what he does.”  

Continuing to showcase his skill, Ashley earned SUNYAC Rookie of the Year after his first season with the Golden Eagles. Ashley averaged 8.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. He had 100 assists on the season and had three extremely notable games. The most impressive being against SUNY Potsdam in the SUNYAC quarterfinal matchup. Ashley finished the game with 34 points, six assists, four steals and four rebounds in 35 minutes of play.  

Ashley during his 34-point game. (Photo Credit: Brockport Athletics)

Student assistant at the time and Long Island native Peter Farkas watched Ashley excel at the high school level and continue his success at Brockport.  

“He had one of the best freshman seasons I’ve ever seen,” Farkas said. “He came in right off the bat. That’s just the way Danny plays. He goes all out for 40 minutes. 110%. He’s just a difference-maker on both sides of the ball. A lot of teams won’t have anybody on the roster that willingly picks up 94 feet on the [defensive end] and then can make others better on the offensive end.” 

Ashley entered his second season ready to produce the same if not more than his first year. It was no surprise that he found success.  

“He was a leader as a sophomore,” Farkas said. “Guys respected his opinion. They listened to his voice. I think he was the anchor of our defense and he just willed other guys to be better on both sides of the ball. He was just one of those guys that flew under the radar, but he knew his role and embraced it.” 

The Brockport men’s basketball team had one of its best seasons in program history in 2019-2020. They finished 26-3 overall and 17-1 in conference play. After winning the conference title, the team went on a deep playoff run in the NCAA tournament. Just as they entered the Sweet 16, COVID cancelled the remainder of their season. While this was not the outcome they thought they would have, Farkas accredits Ashley as a key player in the team’s success that season.  

“We had a different type of lock in,” Farkas said. “I’ve never seen a team so focused on one thing and playing for each other and playing for the people around them in the community. Danny helped lead that change. He’s a winner. He knows how to win. He knows what it takes to win. I don’t know how else to say it. I think everybody knows that about him. It’s the way he carries himself on the court. You can tell he’s built for whatever comes on.” 

The pandemic impacted everyone in different ways. Many people went home, and Ashley was one of them. He spent the past three years back on Long Island taking care of his family.  

“I’m the oldest of all nine siblings, so I’ve always been in the big brother role,” Ashley said. “During that time, everything was hard for my mom to get around. She was scared to go out and handle her business. So, I just felt like it was the best thing for me to do for my family. And for my mental health, I needed to go home and just be around my family to earn money and help mom out around the house.” 

Ashley prepared to lace up his sneakers for the first time last season, but the death of his grandfather led to one more year of helping his family. Current teammate Tony Arnold remembers his decision to stay home.  

Ashley and his grandparents after winning Nassau County Player of the Year. (Photo Credit: Danny Ashley)

“It was sudden,” Arnold said. “Danny finding out was hard for him. He was figuring things out off the court to be able to return the next season and in the middle of that, is when he found out his grandfather passed away. Because it was so sudden, he was in between trying to feel his own feelings and being there for others. He immediately thought about his siblings, his mother and how things would be different.” 

While death is eternal, so is the legacy that Ashley’s late grandfather left with him.  

“His grandfather is him,” Arnold said. “He’s the reason Danny is the Danny we know. He raised him. He taught him life lessons and was his positive male figure growing up. He may be the biggest reason as to why Danny is back at Brockport playing basketball. He means the world to Danny.” 

Being family-oriented is a trait Ashley’s had since a young age. Family is the reason he developed a passion for basketball. Originally, his main sport was football, but all of his older cousins played basketball. Basketball was also the easiest sport to play as there were always two hoops and a court at any park he went to.  

Over the course of his junior and senior years, Ashley visited many of the schools that expressed interest in him. However, on his visit to Brockport, Ashley knew this would be the place he called home. 

Ashley in high school. (Contributed Photo: Peter Farkas)

“We were scrimmaging and all started talking and it’s just the vibe,” Ashley said. “It was similar to my high school team; we were close like that, too. Once I hung out with these guys, it was not fake, everything was so genuine and real. That made me lock in here, just the family love.” 

It is that same love that drives Ashley to compete as hard as he can. He reflects on his childhood and uses it as motivation every time he steps on the court; it is his “why.” 

“From the moment I started, it went from one why to two whys to three, four, five whys,” Ashley said. “Now it’s like the list goes on. It’s everything I’ve been through. It started with the loss of one of my first friends. He passed away in a car accident when I was 12. So, from that day on, I told myself that I was going to take basketball seriously—take it as far as it gets me.” 

For Ashley, basketball has gotten him far and continues to every year. While he was home helping to support his family, he never forgot about his family in Brockport.  

“He’s very invested in the people that he cares about,” Farkas said. “He ended up going home, but he had people up here that he still cared about. So when I would go home, I would bring him back up with me. He’d stay with me for three, four or five, six days at a time and we did that on and on probably two or three times. He would hang out with his people up here, check in on his people up here and then when I go home, I’d bring him back home with me and do it all over again.” 

Ashley’s relationship with former Brockport head coach Greg Dunne, Clarke and assistant coach Seth Johnston over the years has allowed Ashley to grow as a player but most importantly as a person.  

Clarke and Danny at the scorer’s table. (Photo Credit: Brockport Athletics)

“He’s definitely grown up,” Clarke said. “His first couple years was definitely just his young self kind of getting in the way with a lot of things off the court. He has a very unique story back home. I think he felt that as far as family, we are his family away from home. I think he leans on us [the coaching staff] as father figures and that’s why he’s back.” 

Ashley learned a lot from the coaching staff and appreciated all the support they provided him with. He was able to take a step outside of a “big brother role” and rely on his team as well.  

“They did a great job of taking me under their wing and showing me the life skills that I will need as a young man,” Ashley said. “They disciplined me in the basketball way. They would take stuff away that I loved. It showed me that if you want the stuff you love, you have to sacrifice and do the stuff that maybe you might not want to do. I wasn’t used to having big brothers in that aspect. It was a big weight lifted off. It felt good to actually smile to be a little bro from once.” 

Former teammate and current Director of Basketball Operations Davonte Jones played an important role in being someone Ashley could look up to, but Ashley equally inspired him. 

“I’m the big bro figure to him in a sense of when he came here,” Jones said. “But, he inspires me, because of the weight that he carries. We all have been through our own trials and tribulations, but he lost a lot of people and been through a lot. Seeing him here in class, back on the court again, knowing what he’s been through inspires me.” 

Jones and Ashley after winning the 2020 SUNYAC Championship. (Photo Credit: Sam Cherubin)

While Ashley as a player may fly under the radar, his impact and voice on the team are seen and heard. Both the coaches and players appreciate his leadership.  

“He’s just a natural-born leader,” Clarke said. “He just has that in him, and the way he leads is through example by how hard he plays and the way he plays. He gets on guys when they don’t have the same effort as him. The guys respect that because he’s done it, and he continues to do it.” 

Holding the team accountable and himself and others to a high standard is what Arnold appreciates most about Ashley’s leadership. 

“He leads by example and always pushes you to do better,” Arnold said. “He tells us to just follow his lead. Whatever needs to be said or done, he’s usually going to be the one to say it or do it. Danny is a passionate leader. He’s a fighter to our team. He doesn’t like to lose and wants to win in a good way. He expects us to go out and play together and just do our best.” 

Whether it’s the championship game or a pick-up game, Ashley wants to win.  

“I always like to tell myself that I love to win,” Ashley said. “I’ve always been a sore loser even as a kid. But, my will to win is unselfish. I can be on a bench, zero minutes, no points, no nothing; but when we win that ‘chip, I’m going to be the loudest one celebrating. I want to win. I just want to be successful in whatever I do. I just want the best to happen not only for me because I felt the joy of winning the championship. I want to win another one, but I want everyone else to feel that way so they understand.” 

Ashley during a lift this season. (Photo Credit: Brockport Athletics)

While Ashley impresses people with his effort and mentality, he is more than a basketball player. Off the court, he has an energy that people feed off of.  

“To be honest, every time I see Danny it brings a smile to my face,” Farkas said. “He’s like my little brother. When he walks into a room, he lights it up. It’s crazy. What that kid has been through and the energy that he gives off is insane to me. Regardless if it’s you to go war with him on the court or if it’s off the court, he’s always going to have your back. It’s all love no matter how old you get or how far away you are. Danny’s going to be there if you need it.” 

Ashley still has one year of eligibility left. While nobody knows what’s in store for him, one thing is for certain: the impact he’s made is greater than 94 feet. 

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