Becoming Morrissette She had an amazing journey as a Boilermaker and showed us all what it means to grow as a person

It’s hard to encapsulate the kind of player and the kind of person Ashley Morrissette has become over the last four years with the Purdue women’s basketball team. Words like growth, maturity and development all come to mind, but hardly do her transformation justice. She arrived a naive freshman, unsure of what she expected from herself and what she wanted to accomplish, but left as one of the most impressive players and individuals in Boilermaker history. This is how she became Ashley Morrissette.

The two-time Ohio High School State Champion and 2013 Ohio Miss Basketball played just 5.9 minutes a game as a freshman.

The Arrival

“Her heart and competitiveness always made her standout, but she had work to do on the holistic approach to her body and mental approach to the game.” - Purdue Head Coach Sharon Versyp

Ashley’s freshman year couldn’t have been what she expected. The heralded scorer, two-time Ohio state champion and 2013 Ohio Miss Basketball winner came to West Lafayette and did something she’d never done before: sat the bench. She appeared in 26 of the Boilermakers’ 31 games, but played double-digit minutes just five times and was on the court for five minutes or less on 15 occasions. She had breakout moments, scoring 12 points in 13 minutes against Belmont in Mackey Arena, and coming up with an incredible clutch 11 points in 23 minutes against TCU in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but all-in-all was an afterthought on a Boilermaker roster that featured all-conference guards KK Houser, Courtney Moses and April Wilson.

“I didn’t know what I was going to be or what they were going to need from me.” -Morrissette
“How you handle adversity, playing or not playing, understanding the system, having a great attitude: the entire package. That’s what we’re about here, not just performance aspect, and she understood that. She trusted and believed in the process.” - Sharon Versyp
“It’s a self-check and it’s humbling, and then you can go one of two ways: you can feel sorry for yourself and say ‘forget this,’ or you can come to grips with it, figure out a solution and start working. Ashley started working.” -Purdue Associate Head Coach Nadine Morgan

The Bottom

“We had great players, we just weren’t a great team. We didn’t buy into the system.” - Ashley Morrissette

The second season in West Lafayette brought new opportunities and new challenges for Ashley, who stepped into a starting role with the Boilermakers as the team’s starting 2-guard. She began getting the playing time she wanted, starting 28 of 31 games and averaging 31.8 minutes per game, but faced something else that was a complete stranger to her: losing. The Boilermakers finished 11-20 overall, 3-15 in Big Ten Conference play and failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1993. In an era of college basketball where players give up on bad situations and regularly transfer to other programs. Morrissette elected to trust the process, stay loyal to her teammates and show faith in her head coach.

“Having a good attitude is crucial, you have to be willing to open yourself and be willing to learn.” –Morrissette
“She’s all about performing for the team, it’s never about her.” Sharon Versyp

The Turn

“I was faced with the question, ‘Do I want to be the face of the program, am I going to embrace it?’” -Ashley Morrissette

Ashley played an instrumental role in one of the biggest turnarounds in program history in 2015-16, as the Boilermakers rebounded to the tune of 20-12, a sixth-place conference showing at 10-8, and a return to the NCAA Tournament. She averaged 13.0 points per game, starting 30-of-32 contests for the Boilermakers, and showed a flair for the dramatic with game-winning or tying shots in victories over Dayton, Louisville, Michigan and Penn State. The sophomore who mustered just 26 percent from 3-point range became a standout junior who earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors, hitting 36 percent from distance and sinking the eighth-most triples in a season in program history (61). She played for her teammates, honoring her seniors with a career-high 28 points in the regular-season finale win over Wisconsin, and wrapped up the year on the verge of some of the top numbers all-time at Purdue, leaving the Boilermaker faithful wondering what would be in store for her final season in West Lafayette. Yet through it all, something was still missing.

“I didn’t embrace the spotlight the way I should’ve, but it was because I felt like we had work to do. I didn’t understand what an important part of the process that it was.” - Ashley Morrissette

The Breakout

“I don’t think I’ve seen a player transform over four years like Ashley Morrissette did.” - Sharon Versyp

Ashley not only owned the spotlight in her final season with the Old & Gold and Black, she sparkled in it. She was at her best on the national stage, showing out in head-to-head matchups with All-Americans Tori Jankoska of Michigan State, Kelsey Mitchell of Ohio State and Lindsey Allen of Notre Dame. She found a way to own the limelight away from the floor as well, showing grace and humility in wins and losses with the media, taking ownership of all circumstances for her team and making all those around her proud to call themselves Boilermakers.

“I took it as a challenge every time I stepped on the floor with a player like that. When it came time for the game, let’s see how we measure up on the court. I take it personally, I’m trying to go to work.”

There were two major changes for Ashley in her final season that worked out fantastically. First, it was her team. Alongside fellow captains Bridget Perry and Andreona Keys, she took over a leadership role and took responsibility for the direction of the Boilermakers. The second change was connected to the first, as Versyp put the ball in her hands, taking over the full-time point guard duties for her team. She was slotted to share ball-handling duties with sophomore Tiara Murphy, but she went down in the ninth-game with a season-ending injury, leaving Ashley with the lion’s share of the work. Ashley thrived in both roles. She found her voice on and off the floor, earning the respect and loyalty of her coaches and teammates and becoming the face of the program. She created for herself and others, learning the best times for each situation, and built on the big moments from her junior season and extended those into full-game takeovers.

“She embraced it, she owned it, she loved it. THAT’S when she became, not just a leader, but an emotional leader.” - Sharon Versyp

Ashley’s final season was one for the Boilermaker record books. Her 603 points were 10th-best single-season total all-time at Purdue, and the most since Katie Gearlds in 2006-07, while her 172 assists were the third-most in a season by a Boilermaker. She became just the third player in program history to average at least 15.0 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game, joining Hall of Famers Stephanie White and Katie Douglas, and is one-of-seven players all-time at Purdue to lead the team in all three categories for a season. She’s the third Boilermaker to earn First Team All-Big Ten and All-Defensive honors in the same season (Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton, Kelly Komara), and her 1,257 minutes this season were third in program history and ninth-most in the NCAA this season.

She graduates as the No. 16 scorer all-time at Purdue and finished sixth in program history with 181 3-point field goals. She hit 80.1 percent at the charity stripe, good for seventh-best by a Boilermaker, and dished out 370 career assists, good for 14th all-time at Purdue. She also set a program record with 25 consecutive games with a 3-point field goal.

“She’s set the tone for anyone else who comes into Purdue.” - Nadine Morgan

One of her finest moments came after all the cameras were gone, the balls were put away and she was taking off her Boilermaker uniform for the last time. At the end of a player’s career there is a flood of emotions that can overcome a person. A chapter is closing and there is a natural desire to hold on to that moment for as long as you can. Ashley could’ve made the choice to sit quietly through the press conference with short, uninspired answers, return to the locker room and hide in a corner, but she didn’t. She sat proudly in front of the media and spoke of what her team accomplished. She came back to the locker room with a smile on her face, speaking with joy about all her teammates would accomplish in the future. She was ecstatic with what she had helped build and couldn’t hold back her excitement in sharing that with all who would listen. If no one had realized how far she had come and all that she accomplished in her four years at Purdue, they became aware in those moments.

“We grew so much as a team because of how she encouraged and empowered her teammates. She played those final 10 games of the season with everything she had, she finished with no regrets.” - Sharon Versyp

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