Ashley Chase orally accepts basketball scholarship to University of Evansville

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When Switzerland County Lady Pacer Ashley Chase made an unofficial visit earlier this year to the campus of the University of Evansville, she says that she immediately fell in love with the campus. After a cell phone conversation with Purple Aces women’s basketball coach Tricia Cullop Saturday afternoon, Ashley Chase will now see her dream become a reality.

Ashley Chase will attend the University of Evansville beginning in the 2006-2007 school year, and will do so on a full ride basketball scholarship.

“It’s very, very exciting,” Ashley Chase said in a telephone conversation this week while participating in a Blue Chip Basketball Camp at Bellermine University in Louisville. “As soon as I got to Evansville, I fell in love with the place. I loved the university and the I loved the coaching staff; and it’s a great educational institution. I’m very lucky that I’m going to get to play basketball in college and also get a great education.”

Things began to heat up on Saturday, when Ashley Chase and her father, Lawrence, attended the state’s “Top 100”” workout along with Lady Pacer head coach Wayne Ellegood at Ben Davis High School. The workout is a chance for the state’s top players to showcase their talents in front of college coaches — although the coaches are not permitted to speak with the players or their high school coaches or parents while the workout is going on.

“Our team has been at a team camp at Huntington College all last week, and we played 11 games in three days,” Coach Ellegood said. “I thought Ashley was a little dead-legged during the Top 100 workout because she’d played so much at Huntington. She still played pretty well, but I thought she looked a little tired.”

His star player agreed.

“After the workout got over we were driving home through Indianapolis and we were talking about how it wasn’t one of my best days because we’d been at team camp all week,” Ashley Chase said. “I waved at Coach Cullop across the gym, but I wasn’t allowed to talk to her, so I didn’t know what to think.”

In the middle of the conversation in the car just moments after leaving the workout, Coach Ellegood’s cell phone rang.

“Ashley’s cell phone had gone dead, and Coach Cullop was trying to reach her, so she ended up getting my number,” Wayne Ellegood said. “When she told me who it was, I just handed the phone to Ashley.”

“She told me that she really like what she saw at the workout and she wanted to offer me a full ride scholarship,” Ashley Chase said. “She told me to talk about it with my parents and get back to her as soon as I could with an answer.”

That didn’t take long, either.

Already in love with the campus and the staff, Ashley and Lawrence Chase made a call to mom Marsha Chase back in Switzerland County. After a short family discussion, Ashley Chase called her new coach back and orally accepted the offer.

NCAA rules prohibit a student-athlete from officially signing a national letter of intent until November; and Coach Cullop and other officials at the University of Evansville are prohibited from commenting on recruits until those signed letters of intent have arrived at the University.

But everyone is pretty excited.

At Bellermine, Ashley Chase said that she has already met one of her fellow recruits, Ashley Gallagher from Nebraska.

“She’s a really, really good player,” Ashley Chase said. “I got to play against her down here a couple of times, and she’s a very good player. We haven’t guarded each other, but it’s nice to meet other players that I’m going to be with there and begin to form some friendships.”

Ashley Chase also had the chance to meet some of the current players while on her unofficial visit, and feels that she will fit in very well with the current squad once she arrives next year.

“I really like that it’s a Division I school, but it’s a smaller campus,” Ashley Chase said of Evansville. “We will be playing big schools like Louisville and Cincinnati, so it will give me the chance to see how I do against those players, so that’s exciting for me. I get to play in a Division I school and get a great education, too, so I really feel fortunate.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the Purple Aces have signed a contract to play in a tournament in Hawaii while Ashley Chases is there.

“My parents and grandma are already making travel plans,” she laughed.

Wayne Ellegood agrees that Evansville is a perfect fit for Ashley Chase, noting that coming from a small community like Switzerland County, the size of the campus shouldn’t overwhelm her. Being only three hours from home will also help, as family and friends should be able to make the journey to see her play many times.

“She’s pretty excited and this is something that she has been wanting and working for,” Coach Ellegood said of the scholarship. “Everyone knows she’s an outstanding athlete, but she’s also a terrific person. We’re really happy for her. It’s an honor for Ashley, but it’s also an honor for her teammates and this whole community.”

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The scholarship offer to Ashley Chase continues a line of excellence for the Lady Pacer basketball program over the past few years.

Carrie Wiley, a recent graduate of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, played three seasons for the Lady Engineers; Angie Thieman will begin her third season of play for the Hanover College Lady Panthers this fall; Patience Meyer will begin her second season at St. Joseph’s College as a member of the women’s basketball team; and Jaclyn Ranz has agreed to become a member of the women’s basketball team at Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana, as a freshman this year.

It is believed that Ashley Chase’s Division I scholarship is the first for a Switzerland County basketball player since Sheri Alexander played for Ball State University in the early 1980s.