Jordan Ashton gets his chance against Kansas State

Junior Jordan Ashton drives to the hoop against Kansas State on Jan. 16, 2016 at the Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. Ashton earned his first significant minutes of the season Saturday after ISU coach Steve Prohm announced that Hallice Cooke would face a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

Chris Wolff

MANHATTAN, Kansas — Junior guard Jordan Ashton sent out a tweet on Dec. 1 that read: “Swear I just need one chance.”

A month and a half later, he finally got his shot. Ashton had only played in eight games this season for a total of 44 minutes, nearly all of which were in blowouts, before his number was called against Kansas State on Saturday. 

Hallice Cooke was serving a one-game suspension, narrowing Iowa State’s regular rotation to just six men. Steve Prohm did not elaborate on the reason for Cooke’s suspension other than saying Cooke didn’t do the things Prohm wanted him to do.

Ashton was called upon to fill the void left by Cooke, and the former walk-on delivered. Ashton scored five points in 19 minutes of action, but even more importantly provided solid defense alongside Monté Morris at the top of Iowa State’s highly effective 2-3 zone.

Ashton’s breakout performance might be surprising to outsiders, but it wasn’t to his teammates.

“We’ve known what Jordan can do the whole year,” Georges Niang said. “He was just patient and waited for his time. His number was called and he really responded. That kid really works his tail off.”

In Ashton’s first few minutes of meaningful action this season, he got that opportunity, hitting his first shot, a 3-pointer. Ashton would finish 2-for-5 shooting overall.

Though Ashton’s stat line doesn’t jump off the page, his contributions were more important than the stat sheet showed. Ashton was praised by his teammates and coach for playing his role and not trying to do too much.

“I just wanted to stay ready for this opportunity and it came today,” Ashton said.

While the soft-spoken Ashton was speaking with the media after the game, an excited Georges Niang walked out of the locker room and interrupted.

“Yeah boy! Born ready!” Niang yelled while referring to Ashton.

Being ready for when his number was called was important for the first-year ISU guard, who was previously a junior college All-American at Kirkwood Community College.

Despite weeks of riding the bench, Ashton continued to work hard, hustle and wait for his shot.

“You got to be ready when your number is called,” Prohm said.

Ashton was.

“For him to come out and give us that kind of effort for 20 minutes on the road like this in a kind of ‘back against the wall’ game speaks volumes about the kid.”

Prohm referred to Ashton’s prophetic tweet as well, saying Ashton said he would be ready when he got his opportunity, and he was.

Iowa State has maintained a seven-man rotation for the majority of the season, but Ashton’s play may lead to Prohm expanding that rotation to eight guys.

Prohm said the first seven will still get the bulk of the minutes, but Ashton will now have more opportunities. Ashton was also asked about him breaking into the regular rotation and if he thinks he’s made a case to do just that.

“Yeah, I mean hopefully,” Ashton said. “We’ll see.”