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Saturday, October 20, 2018
How Ashten Prechtel grew from poky kid to 'Little Keith' to big-time prospect
Walter Villa, espn.com, October 18, 2018
When Ashten Prechtel was in seventh grade and growing into her tall frame, she repeatedly finished last in running drills with her club team. The coach, who wanted all the players to finish simultaneously, decided to give Prechtel a daily head start of about 10 feet.
"It was terrifying to be called out by the coach," Prechtel said. "I felt the whole team was judging me."
After practices, Prechtel went home mortified. And cried. She worked on her speed and pushed herself to play catch-up.
After a few months Prechtel no longer needed that head start.
"It showed me I had to keep persevering," Prechtel said. "Looking back, it motivated me."
Now a 6-foot-5 senior post player at Discovery Canyon (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Prechtel is the No. 16 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2019 class.
She got her first recruiting letter from Stanford during her freshman year, and it was the Cardinal that won an intense recruiting battle for her, beating UCLA and Texas.
Prechtel, who committed to Stanford on June 25 and will sign Nov. 14, has a 4.5 weighted GPA.
On the court, she led Discovery Canyon to its first playoff win last season, averaging 18.4 points, 14.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
"She's a once-in-a-lifetime kid," said Heath Kirkham, who was hired to coach Discovery prior to last season and led the team to a 15-9 record.
"After I got the job, I heard we had a 6-5 kid. I thought, 'OK, that's nice. She will help us on defense.' But then on the first day of practice, she backed up and hit 10 3-pointers in a row, and she showed she can handle the ball. I thought, 'Wow, this is amazing. This is big time.' "
Kristina Schneible, who was her teammate last season but is now in college, said Prechtel remains grounded.
"Everyone knows Ashten," Schneible said. "She's nice and funny and down to earth."
Prechtel, the oldest of a group of three sports-loving siblings that includes two brothers, comes from an athletic family.
Her mom, Elayne, played Division I volleyball at Drexel University as a 6-foot-1 middle blocker. Prechtel's father, Matt, is 6-5 and was a professional rower.
Elayne claims Prechtel is "taller than her dad," perhaps by as much as an inch.
"But she doesn't want to be measured anymore," Elayne said.
Prechtel's athleticism first manifested itself in football. A huge Denver Broncos fan, she could always throw a tight spiral. In third grade, she was chosen as the quarterback of a boys' flag football team, and, even today, she said she can heave the ball about 50 yards.
Volleyball is another of Prechtel's talents. She has played on Discovery's varsity team for three years, but basketball is her passion.
In fact, it's common for Prechtel, 17, to go through a grueling volleyball practice, come home and grab her two favorite rebounders -- Mom and Dad -- and drive a few blocks to the gym at The Club at Flying Horse.
"She won't leave until she makes 300 shots, including NBA 3-pointers," Matt Prechtel said. "And she can get that done in 45 minutes to an hour.
"Her mother will have one basketball, and I will have the other. We just keep firing her the ball."
Besides the support of her family, Prechtel has had two important mentors over the past three-plus years: Danielle Page, 31, and Keith Van Horn, 42.
Page, a 6-2 former University of Nebraska basketball standout, was born in Colorado Springs and represented Serbia in the 2016 Olympics, where she won a bronze medal. Page is now an assistant coach at Toledo.
"Danielle told us that Ashten is way ahead of where she was at a similar age," Elayne Prechtel said. "Danielle worked with Ashten whenever she wasn't overseas playing basketball."
Van Horn was the second overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft, and he played nine years in the league as a skilled, 6-10 forward.
And because two of his daughters played basketball, Van Horn got involved in coaching them and now runs Colorado Premier, the largest AAU program in the state.
Once Prechtel joined Colorado Premier, Van Horn began to mold her game. He has been so successful that people started calling Prechtel "Little Keith."
"There's certainly some resemblance in size, ability to shoot the 3 and play inside and out," Van Horn said. "People often ask me if she is my daughter. We've spent the past few years correcting people."
Van Horn said Prechtel's intelligence is an important part of her skill set.
"Ashten has a lot of natural gifts," he said. "She's very intuitive in terms of her basketball IQ. She gets it, and she wants to be great.
"Look, she has really nice touch, she's a strong rebounder, and she's developing into a great shot-blocker. What she has to do next is polish her post game so she can be consistently dominant."