As Virginia Tech has made its historic run to the Final Four, high-profile transfer Ashley Owusu has been nowhere to be found.
The former Maryland standout played in the team’s first eight games of the season before missing time with a broken pinkie finger. Yet even after her return, she has struggled to crack the lineup. While she is “staying ready,” Owusu has not played since Feb. 26.
Following the Hokies’ run to their first ACC tournament championship, during which Owusu did not see any minutes, coach Kenny Brooks told The Roanoke Times that his team found its identity while Owusu was working her way back from injury.
“Everybody can just look and see and tell that we’ve got things going in a tremendous direction,” Brooks said. “[The injury] was an unfair situation — not only for her but for us because it usually takes transfers a little while to get used to your system. And the time they’re usually getting used to it, she was out.
“During that time, we formed a different identity — one that probably would’ve been different if she were healthy and playing throughout the month of December and January because … she would have been incorporated into the system. But she’s a different type player and we had to form a different identity.”
By the time that Owusu was ready to return, Brooks said that the team was in “the middle of a heated race” in the ACC. There wasn’t room to try and “reinvent ourselves,” he said, and with others playing well it was difficult to try and find her a place.
“I know she’s frustrated, but my job is to make sure that we’re winning,” he said. “And we are. Our goal was to win the ACC championship. We accomplished that. Our next goal’s to advance as far as we can in the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately, we have to go with what we feel like is the best for our team. And ultimately, it worked.”
And as Virginia Tech has made the first Final Four run in school history, Brooks hasn’t messed with what’s worked for his team, which leaves Owusu riding the bench.
Ahead of the Final Four, Brooks talked with reporters about getting his players to buy into the program.
“I mean, it’s kind of like being a parent. You tell your kids if they act the right way, good things will happen to them. Same thing in recruiting,” he said. “Elizabeth Kitley took a blind leap of faith. Georgia Amoore took a blind leap of faith and trusted in me that if they did the things I told them to do, that everything would come to fruition. For me it’s exciting to watch them experience it.”
He knew the team “had the talent” to reach this point all they way back in the summer leading up to the season.
“They weren’t a cohesive unit during the summer, but we knew we had the makings of it just because we had so many mature kids,” he said. “And then really we hit our stride obviously with the winning streak, but when we lost to Duke, we learned a lot about ourselves. There was no yelling in the locker room after that game. I told the kids, let this sting. We’ll get another opportunity to play them, and I said, don’t let it bother us. Let it kick us forward.
“From that moment, the look in their eyes, they’ve been pure professionals. They’ve gone out, everyone understands their role and they’ve done them and they’ve starred in their roles.”