UConn commit Ashlynn Shade is changing girls’ basketball in Indiana

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Ashlynn Shade (Courtesy of Kirk Green)

Ashlynn Shade, the 5-foot-9 pride of Noblesville High School (Ind.), was already on “cloud nine” Saturday night when the tweet hit her newsfeed. 

Shade had just scored 31 points, tied for a 4A state title game record, to lead the No. 21 Millers to a 76-52 win over Franklin Community in the championship game, and the basketball world had taken notice — including Tyrese Haliburton, the Indiana Pacers’ newest acquisition.

“Seeing that,” Shade said, “(put me) on another level.”

Shade’s performance in front of thousands of fans at Gainbridge Field House — Haliburton’s new home court — helped her earn JWS Player of the Week honors, but it was hardly out of character for the guard.

The UConn commit is a 5-star recruit, per ESPN, and the No. 5-ranked player in the Class of 2023. She finished the season averaging 20.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.7 steals per game, but her impact goes far beyond the box score.

Shade has helped create unprecedented excitement around girls’ basketball at Noblesville. Within minutes of tickets going on sale for the championship game, coach Donna Buckley said the Millers’ student section had sold out and fans were searching for ways to buy seats in other teams’ sections.

Shade is the kind of player best experienced in person, with her singular combination of speed, ferocity and agility.

“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid,” Buckley said.

Her father, Matt, is a personal trainer, and from a young age she was in the gym working on functional movements like squat jumps, push-ups and pull-ups. Her athleticism allows her to score from anywhere on the court, but it’s her mid-range game that gives her the most pride.

“In today’s game, it’s a lot of layups and 3s,” Shade said. “My mid-range game separates me.”

Buckley often positions Shade on the block, and that’s exactly where she was at the start of the fourth quarter to kill Franklin Community’s momentum. The Grizzly Cubs had cut the Millers’ lead to 10, but Shade made sure the run ended there, scoring amid fierce defensive pressure and drawing the foul. Once she converted the and-1, Buckley said it felt like Shade had “stolen Franklin’s soul.”

That was a common feeling among Noblesville’s opponents this season. The Millers were the only team to defeat Homestead, the Fort Wayne, Ind. power led by senior Ayanna Patterson, a McDonald’s All-American and Shade’s future UConn teammate. Noblesville won both games by 21 points, including the teams’ playoff bout on Feb. 12.

While Patterson heads off to Connecticut soon, Shade will get one more season to leave her mark at the high school level. She is on pace to score more than 2,300 points in her career, and Buckley feels fortunate to be along for the ride.

“I’ve never,” Buckley said, “seen anyone quite like her.”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.