Pacific senior's long journey nears its end
STOCKTON, Feb 21, 2013 (The Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Ashley Wakefield was about a mile away from Pacific in the fall of 2010, but it felt much farther than that.
The 5-foot-11 forward on the Pacific women's basketball team had to overcome many obstacles to get to her desired destination, and now she's less than four months from graduation.
Wakefield and the Tigers (19-6, 9-4 Big West Conference) are now tied for first place with Hawaii and will host last-place Cal State Fullerton (7-17, 3-9) at 7 p.m. today. It opens Pacific's final homestand with two last chances for five seniors to perform at Spanos Center. Wakefield is especially thankful for the opportunity after arriving in Stockton three years ago.
Wakefield had been the California State Community College Player of the Year in 2009-10 for Santa Clarita College in her hometown and wanted to attend Pacific after a recruiting visit. Unfortunately, a left knee injury put Wakefield behind in school work and left her numerous credits short of being able to attend and play at Pacific under scholarship.
Coach Lynne Roberts and her staff laid out a plan for Wakefield to attend needed classes at Delta College in the fall of 2010 while also rehabilitating her left knee. Wakefield paid for the classes, did the course work and did as much as she could to aid the recovery of a torn meniscus.
"Her story is an impressive one of perseverance," Roberts said. "Most kids would have likely said no to all of the work she had to do, but she pursued something she really wanted."
Wakefield enrolled at Pacific in January 2011 and began practicing with the team before beginning play last season. She said those were trying times for her, but once she had committed to Pacific and saw how much the coaching staff was committed to her, she never had second thoughts.
"It was hard," Wakefield said. "I had to keep myself motivated. I had to pay for some things out of pocket; I just had to keep at it. Basketball here at Pacific was something I really wanted to do."
Wakefield's athleticism and scoring ability off the dribble was a missing component for the Tigers, and her addition catapulted them to an 18-14 record last season and a second-round appearance in the WNIT. Wakefield averaged 12.2 points per game last season and is averaging nine per game this season.
Wakefield will graduate in May with a communication degree and wants to pursue professional basketball overseas.
"I know when she graduates in May, it'll be a special moment for all of us," Roberts said.
Fellow seniors Brianna Johnson (communications degree) and A.J. Smith (sports pedagogy) will also graduate in May and have been a major part of Pacific's success off the bench in the past two seasons. Johnson and Smith have brought toughness to the Tigers and enjoyed doing it.
"There is so much value in the things they bring that don't get counted in the stat sheet," Roberts said. "They both know their roles and work hard. Not everyone wants that job because it's not a glory role, but they've both bought in and brought it for us."
Contact reporter Jagdip Dhillon at (209) 546-8292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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