Carrying the Torch

CTUIR member Ashlyn Wallace sets scoring record, becomes next Tribal hooper to join NCAA ranks

By Cary Rosenbaum of the CUJ

In what’s become nothing shy of a pipeline to college basketball in recent years, yet another CTUIR member will move on from Clarkston High School in Washington state to play basketball at the next level.

Ashlyn Wallace capped off a stellar senior season with a Greater Spokane League 2A MVP award and by breaking the school’s all-time scoring record of 1,737 points.

She also joined the likes of CTUIR members Tre’von (Idaho) and Tru Allen (Northwest Nazarene) as hoopers from Clarkston to move on to the next level.

“I think that all of the Native kids who attend Clarkston have an overwhelming amount of support,” she said. “They want what’s best for us as athletes and students. We have amazing coaches and an athletic director who opens the gym or weight room for us nearly anytime we wanted.”

Aside from being students at Clarkston High School, I think we all just took advantage of all the opportunities we had to get better from AAU, camps, Native tournaments to finally finding our summer club ball teams that travel to all the NCAA viewing tournaments to get recruited.”

Wallace still considers Lapwai, Idaho on the Nez Perce Reservation home.

“It will always be home to all of us (Native athletes at Clarkston) and there is a ton of support there as well,” she said. “We are very lucky to have two very supportive communities helping us achieve our goals, which ultimately lead us to play college basketball.”

The only item missing in Wallace’s high school career was a State 2A Championship — something she thinks was achievable in 2021, had the state of Washington not cancelled the annual state tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A goal was always to win state,” she said. “We made it a couple times, but I really think we could have had a good chance to win had there been state this year.”

Wallace said she maintained a positive mindset through the pandemic and the realization a championship was not achievable.

“I used that time to get more work in at the gym and working out,” she said. “Nothing you can change about what was happening, so I decided I might as well make the most of it. This season was exactly that. We had an amazing season and it was special getting the chance to play with my little sister (Kendall).”

Family is important to Wallace. A family atmosphere ultimately led to her choice to to attend Idaho over other competing schools.

“Idaho felt like family from my very first visit,” she said. “It was very family-oriented from the player relationships to the coaches and their families.”

The Vandals were 17-7 in a 2021 season shortened due to the pandemic. It was an impressive campaign that saw Idaho fall one game shy of making the NCAA Tournament after falling in the Big Sky Championship to Idaho State. The team is coached by Jon Newlee.

“Coach Newlee has been super successful at Idaho throughout the years & I can’t wait to play for him,” Wallace said. “ I watched a few games and really like their style of play. Obviously, it was a bonus that it is so close to home.

“I’m excited that my family and friends will be able to attend a lot of my games and I will continue to have a lot of support. Overall, it was the best fit for me to succeed to further my education as well as basketball.”

With her signing to join the Vandals, Wallace also becomes one of just a few Native American hoopers at the college level, including fellow CTUIR member Milan Schimmel. The Clarkston baller said it means a lot to represent a Tribe on the college stage.

“I am proud to be that representation,” she said. “I hope to be a good role model for younger girls. There is only a certain amount of scholarships given, so to be a part of the select few who have worked hard to be given the opportunity means a lot. Indian country has a lot to offer. There are so many talented players, we just have to get out there and show them. And it starts with us paving the way.”

Years ago, Wallace participated in the BAAD Tournament in her ancestral homeland. She recalls falling in love with the game in that setting.

“That’s where the love of the game started,” she said. “Being enrolled and Native you learn a lot of values such as the importance of family, taking pride in who you are and where you came from, and a ton of respect, especially to elders. A lot of the values we learn translate in all aspects of life and sports.”

For Wallace, her ultimate goal of going to college and having her education paid for was achieved.

“I just want to show my appreciation by working hard,” she said. “University of Idaho gave me a scholarship, and my goal is to work hard, practice and contribute to the team and make it worth it for them by being the best that I can be. Even further, I want to be example for younger girls that with hard work and dedication you can achieve your goals.”

Wallace hopes other Tribal members aspire to achieve their goals and offers the following tips.

“Fall in love with the process and take advantage of every opportunity you have,” she said. “Work when others aren’t. Be a positive impact and influence other players around you. Be the player you would love to play with, keep true to your values, and remain thankful, appreciative and humble. Lastly, focus on school. All of these things are very important and helped me get to where I am today.”

She thanked the city of Clarkston, her coach Debbie Sobotta , and the school for their support throughout her career.
“Clarkston is a very supportive community,” Wallace said. “They have supported, encouraged and cheered for me all throughout my years at CHS. My time at CHS was successful and I couldn’t have done it without my amazing teammates all four years. I will definitely miss it.”