After three ACL tears by end of sophomore year, playing competitive basketball again did not seem plausible for Ashley Malone.
Despite the setback, Malone’s comeback was never in doubt, and that work ethic and determination are among the reasons she will realize her dream of playing Division I college basketball next season.
Malone signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her play on the hardwood for Jacksonville University.
“Jacksonville is getting a fierce competitor,” JPII Head Coach Angi Puckett said. “She is a fearless point guard who does not get intimidated. She is a tenacious defender and a player with a heart of a champion. JU will also love her personality, it is as big as her game.”
“They were the first college to believe in me coming off of my injuries and believed that I could still be great,” Malone told Main Street Preps. “When I visited, it felt like home to me.”
Heading into her freshman campaign at JPII, Malone tore her right ACL, and after months of rehabilitation trying to get back on the court before the end of her freshman season, déjå vu struck as she tore the same knee ending any chance of getting back on the court.
Again, fighting to get back, Malone experienced another set back, this time, tearing her other knee’s ACL.
“Mentally, I was ready to quit,” she said. “I thought to myself; basketball is not meant for me. Thankfully, I had great people around me to push me through it. They all played a part in the player I am now.”
Malone thanked her parents, her teammates and coach Angi Puckett for getting her through what is described as the worst of times.
“I leaned on my faith as well,” she added. “I was praying every night, and nothing worked, and naturally, I think you lose some faith, but I eventually realized this was not anyone’s fault, so I leaned on God more and my parents, and they got me through it all.”
Malone vowed to come back stronger than ever, and that is precisely what she did.
“I learned that I am one strong female,” she said. “It gave me a chance to take a step back and look at the game and give me more insight on how to play.”
Though mentally, she was sharp, physically, she did not fully trust herself.
“I played a little show starting back, but with the support of my teammates and coaches, I started playing like myself again. Their support made it easier for me,” she said.
Her junior season saw All-State and First Team All-Sumner County honors, and she made the promise to come back even more durable for her last go-round as a Lady Knight.
“I was confident going into my senior year that I would dominate, but I will say I surprised myself,” she said. “I feel like my confidence just kept growing as the season went along, and I got better every day.”
As a senior, she led her team to the Final 8 in DII-AA playoffs, averaging 17 points per game and earning All-State and First Team All-Sumner County recognition.
She now moves from being a big fish in a small pond in Sumner County to being a big fish in a bigger pond 12 hours from home in the Atlantic Sun Conference. She is nervous, but she is prepared.
“It is a little far from home, and I am leaving behind a great support system, but I am thrilled to get the opportunity to play DI basketball. I have faced a ton of adversity, and I have been able to overcome it, but my story is not finished.”
Malone will study Kinesiology during her four years in Jacksonville.
Jacksonville finished the 2019-20 season 18-12 overall and 10-6 in league play.