Ashlynn Shade loving her new life at UConn

The shock factor of being a Husky still hasn't worn off for the freshman.

Photo: Ian Bethune

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Ashlynn Shade loving her new life at UConn

One day, Ashlynn Shade will no longer be awe-struck by the fact that she’s a member of the UConn women’s basketball team, gets coached by Geno Auriemma and lives in Storrs, Connecticut.

That day has not yet arrived, though. A few weeks into her tenure with the Huskies, Shade is still reveling in her new life.

“It's becoming more realistic, like, this is like my life for like the next four years,” she said. “But I love it. I mean, I just still think it's so cool. I get to wake up in Storrs, Connecticut every day and work out with these girls.”

Shade originally committed to UConn in January of 2022, so she had plenty of time to prepare for her arrival. But it’s one thing to think about it, and another to experience it firsthand. When the Huskies gathered for the first time at the start of summer workouts, Shade had to pinch herself.

“It was super surreal that first practice that we had, [Geno] huddling us up and before practice even started, I was just like, ‘This is just so awesome,’” she relayed. “This is what I wanted coming into college and it was just so cool experiencing that.”

Shade still has plenty to learn at UConn — both school-wise and with the program. But her biggest transition to college actually began last year when she transferred from Noblesville High School, her local public school, to La Lumiere School, a prep school located about two-and-a-half hours away from home.

It was close enough that her family could visit or come watch her play easily, but far enough that she needed to board on campus. Shade — who described herself as “super family-oriented” and called her twin brother, Jack, her best friend — needed the year away from home to ease her into college life.

“I knew the transition from being at home going to college was definitely going to be one of my top challenges,” she said. “I think that transition definitely helped me and the support system I had there taught me how to be more independent and do things on my own while still knowing I have my family with me.”

Shade didn’t have the same concerns about adjusting on the court with the top program in the nation, though. Despite stepping into a backcourt with the likes of Paige Bueckers, Nika Mühl and Azzi Fudd, the freshman has plenty of confidence in herself to know she can handle whatever gets thrown at her.

“I always knew basketball, anywhere I’m at, I can handle that,” Shade said. “'I can figure that out. I always know basketball.”

That much has been obvious in her first few weeks on campus. While the entire freshman class has been lauded for their work ethic, Shade is a cut above the rest.

“She plays very, very hard,” associate head coach Chris Dailey said. “There's never going to be a question on how hard she goes.”

In fact, Shade’s effort level is reminiscent of a former UConn great — at least according to Dailey.

“Ashlynn reminds of Shea Ralph a little bit because of her toughness and she just wants to get after it,” the coach said.

Even without the comparison, there’s plenty for the Huskies to be excited about with Shade. When she signed last November, Auriemma described her as a positionless, “really good basketball player.”

Shade agreed with that assessment, even if she admitted she’s most comfortable in the backcourt.

“I just kinda don’t really fit a description,” she said. “I'm very versatile on where I can be placed on the court. I just want to do what's best for the team and what I can provide for the team. So I would be open to really any position that they need me because it's more about the team than me.”

In a more tangible sense, Shade’s toolkit has been impressive throughout the early days of workouts.

“She gets to the spot she wants to get to to score — and that's interesting because sometimes kids don't know that area and that spot,” Dailey said. “Her pull-up is automatic and she's athletic. She can rebound.”

It hasn’t been all perfect, which is to be expected for a freshman at the very start of her career. While Shade’s work ethic has impressed her new coaches and teammates alike, the Huskies don’t want her to press to the point where it becomes a detriment to herself and the team.

“She's one of those kids that I think will almost have to calm down,” Dailey said. “You want kids to play hard, you don't want to play fast. She wants to be good so badly and she wants to help the team and do all those things, she's gonna have to take a deep breath in order for her to be able to see everything and see the game.”

Still, there are worse problems for freshmen to be dealing with and it should improve as Shade gets comfortable. She’ll get there eventually, especially once she gets enough time under her belt.

But for now, she’s more than happy to be a wide-eyed freshman.

“I always tell like my parents and my family back home, the words that [Geno] tells us are just so wise,” Shade laughed. “Just being in his presence is just so cool for me.”

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