Freshman Ashley Earley from Memphis has been a big contributor off the bench for Vanderbilt's 9-1 women's team. VandyMania talked to Earley about her adjustment to college life and to college basketball.
* * * *
VM: Give me your thoughts on how practices in college compare to high school.
Ashley: I've been playing with the team since this summer, so I'm pretty used to them now. It's been a lot more intense than high school. I think that's one of the biggest differences.
VM: You're from Memphis Briarcrest, and your team won how many state championships while you were there?
Ashley: We won two state championships, and had two runner-up finishes.
VM: And you were named Miss Basketball, weren't you?
Ashley: I was Miss Basketball my senior year, and my sophomore and junior year I was runner-up.
VM: Tell me when you first started hearing from colleges, and maybe a little bit about the recruiting process and how you ended up at Vanderbilt.
Ashley: I started hearing from colleges really early, maybe in junior high. The recruiting process was really fun. The colleges really started to call during my junior year-- luckily I was at Nationals so I missed the big rush of phone calls. I came back home, and there were so many messages on my answering machine! I committed early, before Nationals. It got a little bit overwhelming. I decided to commit early, because I knew where I wanted to go.
VM: What was it that sold you on Vanderbilt?
Ashley: The team. How close the team is. When I visited, they made me feel really comfortable. After that, I really couldn't see myself anywhere else.
VM: The players here have a reputation for being a very warm and accepting bunch, and you found that to be true?
Ashley: Yeah, it's been fun. Back during the summer, it would have been really easy for us to get homesick. But the first night I was here, Ashley [McElhiney] came over and made sure I had everything I needed, and we went out to dinner. They're really like that, the entire time. It's not just when you're being recruited. Sometimes when you're being recruited, everyone's nice, and when you get here, they're not so nice. But here, they're nice!
VM: They didn't have any kind of initiation period for you?
Ashley: (Laughing) No, they don't do that. You're pretty much on an equal setting from day one. Everyone is treated equally.
VM: You started in summer school. Tell me about getting adjusted to dorm life, all those things... who's your roommate, and how's the transition gone?
Ashley: In June when I came, it was me and Abi [Ramsey, freshman from Shelbyville]. We were the only two who started in June. The summer is really different from the fall. It was easy. We took two classes, one in June and one in July. It wasn't too hard. There were times when we needed help on things, and other teammates would help us.
VM: Has Coach Foster talked with you about your role on the team this year? The team already had a lot of established players before your class came on.
Ashley: Just because I'm a freshman doesn't mean that he doesn't expect anything. He expects all the freshmen to contribute-- that's why he's recruited us. That's what I like about him-- just because you're a freshman doesn't mean that you're not going to play. I think he expects all of us to come in and contribute.
VM: There are very big expectations on this team this year, for the first time in a few years. But, I guess you played on some teams where there were very big expectations too, so that's nothing new for you.
Ashley: No, it's nothing new. It's kind of the same thing because when I was in high school as an underclassman, we were the underdogs. We kind of gradually stepped it up, and we became the team to beat. I guess that's how Vanderbilt's getting. Last year they were underdogs, but this year in the preseason rankings, now we're the team to beat.
VM: Is it better to get that respect early, or is it better to come out of nowhere and surprise folks? Or does it matter?
Ashley: It doesn't really matter (laugh). You should just come to play every game.
VN: Tell me about Abi. You are both freshman coming in from within the state. Have you two really hit it off?
Ashley: We have that little bond together. We played on a team together last summer. So, yeah. We stay in the same dorm. She's liking it really well.