Raider Profile: Hannah & Faith Ashby of Women's Basketball
If there was a Hollywood movie marquee to be made regarding the 2016-17 Rutgers-Newark women's basketball team, perhaps they could steal one from an old Woody Allen flick.
At R-N, the title using members of the Scarlet Raiders could read: "Hannah and Her Sister."
Hannah Ashby was the first one to stumble across the Scarlet Raiders, considering that current R-N assistant coaches Tiffany Conner and Kerin Roche were familiar with Hannah, having coached her at Teaneck High School.
"Knowing Coach Tiff and Coach Kerin beforehand really made things easier," said Hannah Ashby, a freshman swingman for the Scarlet Raiders. "I really liked the campus. I heard they had a good psychology program and their criminal justice program is very good."
Hannah Ashby was already leaning towards enrolling at R-N and playing basketball for head coach Ashley Cieplicki and the Scarlet Raiders, despite the fact that her older sister of 11 months Faith was already a part of the women's program at Montclair State University.
"We've always been really close," Faith Ashby said. "We played softball together and were cheerleaders together and of course, we played basketball. We pretty much did everything together. I had to take on the role of being the big sister, because after all, I knew it was my job. I looked after her and made sure she was okay."
Faith Ashby spent her freshman year of college at Montclair State, but found the school just wasn't right for her.
"I played a couple of games during the first semester," Faith Ashby said. "Then I didn't play at all. The style of ball there wasn't what I was used to."
Faith Ashby averaged only 1.8 points per game in 24 games played with the Red Hawks her freshman season.
However, it was Hannah who showed the first interest in R-N. She was headed to Newark without her sister.
"It's true," Faith said. "She was the first one to go there. The opportunity came up and I took it."
Faith Ashby, a social work major, decided to transfer to R-N and join her little sister as a member of the Scarlet Raiders.
"I also had a close relationship with Coach Tiff and Coach Kerin," Faith Ashby said. "I learned a lot from them. It was definitely much easier to transfer knowing that Hannah was there."
Cieplicki didn't want it to look like she was plucking players from another roster in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
"I knew Faith wanted to play more than she did at Montclair," Cieplicki said. "I am good friends with the coaches at Montclair. I spoke with (MSU head women's coach) Karin (Harvey) and she said, 'If she wants to go somewhere else, I'm glad she's going to you.' We have a good relationship."
So there it was, tied up with a big scarlet ribbon, two talented sisters for the price of one. Having two Ashby sisters was definitely much better than having just one.
"I never coached sisters before," Cieplicki said. "I don't think I even played with sisters. So I didn't know how it would work out."
As it has turned out, it's been a blessing for the Scarlet Raiders, who were in a solid need for more good players a year ago in Cieplicki's first season.
"We got better fast," Cieplicki said.
Faith Ashby has made a major impact on the Scarlet Raiders, averaging 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, trailing only Maria Simmons on the Scarlet Raiders' scoring list.
Hannah Ashby is a vital cog off the bench, averaging 5.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game as one of the team's top reserves.
More importantly, the Scarlet Raiders own an 9-13 record this season, already eclipsing last year's win total with a handful of games remaining.
Cieplicki believes that the two Ashby sisters blend in nicely because they are different players with different personalities.
"I think it's pretty cool," Cieplicki said. "There aren't many sisters who can say they played together. They're both such great kids and they're having a great time."
"I think I know where Faith is at all times, both on and off the court," Hannah Ashby said. "I know what she's thinking and where she's going with the ball. She knows who I am and what I can do. We set each other up well."
Not only do the sisters play together, but they live together in the R-N dorms. It's just like their home in Teaneck.
"We're really good friends, so there's not much arguing," Faith Ashby said. "I was very happy coming here, knowing I'd be with Hannah all the time."
"It made things a lot easier coming here, being with Faith," Hannah Ashby said. "It's the same way as it is at home."
No disagreements? C'mon, they're sisters.
"No, not really," Hannah Ashby said. "The amazing thing is that we've been like that since we were kids. We're sisters. It's good. It's easy. I honestly didn't think I'd end up in the same college with my sister, but now that it's happening, it's great."
"There's really not too much arguing," Faith Ashby said.
It's rare, because even Cindy had fights with Marcia and Jan on "The Brady Bunch."
Both sisters understand their importance to the Scarlet Raiders.
"I feel like we're all real young," Faith Ashby said. "We have a lot to learn. We are understanding our roles and learning what college basketball is all about. There's a lot to learn obviously."
"I didn't have any expectations about playing," Hannah Ashby said. "I just had to work hard to prove that I belonged on the floor."
Cieplicki mentioned that Hannah Ashby is one of the hardest workers in her program.
"I never have to worry about Hannah working hard," Cieplicki said. "She wants to be a good player and she wants to get better. Hannah will never be the player that Faith is, but that's fine. Hannah works her tail off. Faith does the things she always did. She has that confidence and wants to be the best player out there."
Needless to say, Cieplicki is pleased to have both Hannah and her sister.
"Who would have thought this would happen?" Cieplicki said. "It wasn't in our game plan. Things just happen and we've been able to benefit from it. I love having them around. Faith and Hannah have been great additions to our program."
And to think, this picture will be playing in the Golden Dome for two more years, a longer run that Woody Allen's Oscar-winning classic.