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In the first half of Sierra Canyon’s boys basketball game against Wheeler High of Georgia, senior Ashton Hardaway had four points, one rebound and missed his only 3-point attempt.
Wheeler took an eight-point lead into halftime in front of 2,000 fans at USC’s Galen Center with rappers The Game and 2 Chainz sitting courtside. Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams was there, too.
Hardaway took responsibility for the Trailblazers’ situation.
“I had to wake up more as a leader and take pride in rebounding,” Hardaway said.
Coach Andre Chevalier demanded more from the Memphis-bound forward.
“We challenged Ashton at halftime and he did things we expect him to do every game,” Chevalier said.
Hardaway came to life, making four 3-pointers in the second half en route to an 18-point performance with four rebounds and two blocks in Sierra Canyon’s 66-55 comeback victory Saturday night.
Hardaway’s last 3-pointer came with 2:26 to play and extended the Trailblazers’ lead to 56-51. Hardaway’s line in the box score was filling up, and so was his confidence. He let Wheeler’s players know what he’s capable of after hearing it from them the first two quarters.
“I started hitting shots, so I’m going to start talking,” Hardaway said with a grin. “It was finally my turn.”
ESPN recruiting and scouting expert Paul Biancardi has said Hardaway is one of the best shooters in the 2023 class, a tagline he has used to describe Hardaway – the son of former NBA player Penny Hardaway – frequently during Sierra Canyon’s televised games this season.
Ashton Hardaway wearing a Memphis shirt proudly among all the scarlet red. Hardaway signed to play for the Tigers (and his father, Penny) last month. pic.twitter.com/htVMBUEYHA
— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) December 17, 2022
Hardaway finished Saturday night’s game 4 of 8 from beyond the arc. The victory was most important, but Chevalier has put an emphasis on Hardaway’s attempts more than his makes. It’s a role the 6-foot-7 forward is adjusting to.
“I tell him he needs to shoot eight or nine 3s a game. … He needs to let it fly,” Chevalier said of Hardaway. “He’s a great scorer. We hope that he understands that. We need him to play at a high level to win high-level games and to win a championship.”
Most basketball players aren’t requested to shoot nearly 10 3-pointers a game. As fun as that sounds, it’s not an easy task, especially when the ball isn’t going in.
“It’s hard to wrap my head around shooting 10 3s a game. But that’s my role on the team, to shoot those shots. Coach obviously believes in me. So that’s what I need to do.”
Chevalier added: “I want him to have the mentality to be very offensive. To shoot the ball, because it allows Isaiah (Elohim) and Bronny (James) to get to the rim and attack better if they have to guard Ashton four feet behind the 3-point line.”
Ashton Hardaway with a one-handed jam. Sierra Canyon’s first points. pic.twitter.com/R7yOUZ3Ef5
— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) December 4, 2022
Hardaway is averaging 12.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season. Sierra Canyon is 15-3 overall with one Mission League victory under its belt.
The program has developed into a CIF Southern Section Open Division mainstay, earning a berth to the section’s highest playoff division every season of its existence. Sierra Canyon has made it to six of the last seven Open Division finals and four straight Open Division regional finals.
The Trailblazers are in search for their first Open Division title since 2020.