TIM PEELER: A Key Contributor
Nov. 17, 2005
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH -- When Ashley Key was in high school, she played all five positions on the basketball team, from center to point guard.
"To be honest, all of them felt the same to me," said the junior from Atlanta.
That's because Key was almost always the tallest and most talented player on the floor when she suited up for Landmark Christian, a private school in Fairburn, Ga., where the graduating classes average around 70 members.
It was a school that Key's mom, Darlene, found driving to the mall one day. When she gave her daughter the choice between that and another private school in town, one with a better basketball tradition, Ashley chose Landmark because its school uniform was khaki pants instead of a plaid skirt.
When she arrived at NC State two years ago, the 6-0 Key had to settle on a permanent position became a shooting guard and defensive specialist, just as she was with her nationally prominently AAU team. She was a little raw, but contributed immediately as a freshman and as a sophomore with her outside shooting.
"I felt I needed a lot of work, because I was just so used to being able to get what I wanted on the basketball court," Key said. "When I got here, it wasn't that easy to get off a shot. I had to improve parts of my game. A lot of it dealt with my basketball IQ."
Now, that IQ will be tested significantly, since Key has moved from shooting guard to point guard, where she hopes to step in for the departed Kendra Bell to run the Wolfpack offense. The No. 23 ranked women open their season Friday against UNC-Greensboro at 7 p.m. at Reynolds Coliseum.
Head coach Kay Yow knows it's a bit of a risk, putting the ball in the hands of a raw point guard. But the Hall of Fame coach likes the way the Key moves the team in transition. She gives the Wolfpack a tall point guard, who is athletic enough to get the ball up the court quickly and smart enough to move it around to the team's other offensive weapons.
How else would you describe a self-described computer nerd who is double majoring in electrical and computer engineering, with a minor in Spanish?
"She still has a lot to learn, not having ever played the point guard position at this level," Yow said. "Every game will give her more experience. We are really looking forward for her to get a few games under her belt.
"She really pushed the ball up the court and is a great athlete. I really feel our transition game can be the strongest it has been in some time. I think she will have a big impact on that. She passes the ball ahead really well, but she can also be a scorer in that position. There are just a lot of things I like about her at that position."
Key wasn't so sure. When Yow first asked her to make the move, she thought it was a temporary thing for one practice, or some sort of mental test.
"I didn't think it was a permanent change," Key said.
But the Wolfpack is deep on the wings, even with senior Rachel Stockdale and Billie McDowell out with injuries right now. But senior point guard Tiffany McCollins has also missed all of preseason practice with an injury, leaving senior Monica Pope as the team's only true point guard.
Yow committed to making Key the point guard, capable off pushing the team in transition and hitting outside shots, with Pope, a more traditional point, coming off the bench.
"If she needs help, there are options out there," Yow said.
Key said she is beginning to feel more comfortable at the position - "about a seven, on a scale of 10," she said - and is looking forward to the challenges the Wolfpack will face over the next couple of weeks, as they play at home against the Spartans, on the road against St. Joseph's in Philadelphia and in two games in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas.
"I am becoming more and more comfortable," Key said.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.