• Tri-City Christian basketball star gaining national attention

  • Ashton West just turned 16, but his age didn’t keep Tri-City Christian basketball coach David Talbert from giving the sophomore sensation the keys to the Crusaders’ offense.

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  • Ashton West just turned 16, but his age didn’t keep Tri-City Christian basketball coach David Talbert from giving the sophomore sensation the keys to the Crusaders’ offense.
    That was perhaps the easiest decision the veteran coach has ever made.
    West dominated a recent practice session, distinguishing himself from his teammates with his speed, uncanny basketball IQ and sweet jump shot.
    West is averaging 42.3 points per game for a 9-12 Crusaders team that is 7-1 when West is on the court. He is shooting 47 percent overall and 37 percent from 3-point range, and is shooting 84 percent from the free-throw line. He had a season-best 60-point game on 22-of-41 shooting in a 76-52 win over Faith Christian Academy of Kansas City on Dec. 11 (visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiNz1tqp7Ow for a YouTube video of that game).
    Following an outlet pass from a teammate in practice, the Oak Grove resident sprints down the court, pulls up 10 feet from the basket and lofts a shot that hits nothing but net.
    Time after time, move after move, West shows why Creighton, California and North Carolina State – all schools that saw him at the elite adidas Phenom 150 camps – along with Kansas, Kansas State and a number of other Division I schools are paying attention to the 6-foot-2 swingman who is making a name for himself and helping the Crusaders become one of the most talked about Christian teams in the state.
    “All you have to do is watch Ashton for a minute or two, and you know how special he is, and how special he can become over the next two years,” Talbert said. “We are a small Christian school, and he makes us a special small Christian team.
    “He’s so good – as he you can tell by watching at practice – and he’s that good in most games, too. He’s double-teamed, tripled-teamed, you name it – and that just challenges him to raise his game to a new level.
    “And he continues to do that. He just turned 16, and he works so hard, so the sky’s the limit. And he’s just a sophomore – so we get to enjoy him and watch him grow and develop for two more years.”
    That last statement is punctuated by a smile that may never leave Talbert’s face.
    When asked about attending Tri-City, West has a ready answer.
    “I made the decision to come here to be a better person and to further my relationship with God,” West said. “I owe everything to God, so it was an easy decision.”
    Each morning, at 4:30 a.m., West can be found at an Independence fitness center, lifting weights and working out before hitting the basketball court for an hour and a half session of refining his game.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I’m 6-2,” he said. “I’m easily replaceable. So I figure that if I want to get to my ultimate goal of Division I college (ball), I have to work harder than everyone else. That’s why I go to the gym at 4:30, stay until 6 a.m. and then come and work extra hours at school.
    “I’m blessed, I truly am. And I want to make the most of the ability and talent God has given me.”
    Playing in the Mid America Christian School Conference does not afford West the best competition in the state. In fact, at this practice session, he was honing his skills against junior varsity boys and varsity girls.
    “It doesn’t matter who he’s practicing against or playing against,” Talbert said, “he goes 100 percent. I think when the other players see that, they want to go 100 percent, they want to work as hard as Ashton.
    “And we’ve seen teams do everything in the book to stop him – and nothing has been successful. They might slow him down a little bit, but no one has stopped him.”
    This weekend, the Crusaders head to Joplin, Mo., for the MACSC state championship round-robin tournament.
    After the high school season wraps up, West will continue to work on his game and then compete this summer with the MoKan Elite AAU team.
    “I love the game, and I am so lucky to have a mom – a single mom with three kids – who is willing to take me to a gym, to a game, everywhere. She’s my rock. I don’t know where I’d be without her.
    “But like she says, if I’m in a gym, she knows where I am and that I’m working hard.”
    Which is great news for the Crusaders and college recruiters and bad news for Tri-City's opponents for the next two years.

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