ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Friday, February 17, 2012

Albertus Magnus' Askew closing out stellar career

NEW HAVEN – Mitch Oliver had just completed his first season at Albertus Magnus.
Despite going 3-21, the former assistant coach at Quinnipiac had visions of turning the Falcons into a Division III power. He also had the ambition to pursue the course. He just needed some key components to take him there. He needed talent, leadership, and guile. He ended up getting them all in one player.

Searching for the cornerstone for his program Oliver went to see Hamden’s Ray Askew play in an area Summer League game. There were several other coaches in attendance but Oliver predicted what was going to happen.
“I was with (then junior) Byron Reaves and I told him, ‘Watch, they’re going all going to leave,’” Oliver recalled. Just as he predicted the other coaches, unimpressed, filed out of the gym long before the game was over. Oliver shook his head and stayed there, just to talk to Askew.
“Just to let him know I’m still here,” Oliver said. “I saw him play as a junior at Career and I knew he what he could do. He was a very good student and I knew how talented he was. ”
He was the only one.
Askew finished a solid but unspectacular time at Career Regional with not one collegiate offer. Not one Division I or Division II program wanted him. Not even the Division III.
“My career was over,” Askew said. “I never was going to play again. I was just looking for a college to go into accounting and basketball had nothing to do with it.”
Askew, however, listened to Oliver’s visions of how the two of them could turn around AMC. Four years later the duo has accomplished just about all of their goals.
Askew will take a curtain call today as Albertus Magnus recognizes its seniors on the final game of the regular season against St. Joseph’s (Maine) at 3 p.m. He already holds the school’s all-time rebounding mark and needs just 46 points to become its all-time leading scorer.
But the personal marks take backstage to the Falcons’ team accomplishments during his four years. Albertus Magnus is nationally ranked for the first time in the school history and riding an 18-game winning streak. The Falcons have locked up the Great Northeast Athletic Conference regular-season title and are a lock for an NCAA berth whether they win the conference postseason tournament or not.
It’s just what Oliver had envisioned. While the throng of coaches who abandoned Askew, perhaps thinking that at 6-foot-6, he was undersized to dominate inside, or too inconsistent to play from the perimeter wipe the egg off their collective faces, Askew will go down as one of the all-time finds.
He is the Division III version of Jeremy Lin, a superstar than no one else could have predicted.
“I’ve always known that he’s athletically superior to just about everyone he faces,” Oliver said.
Askew’s ascent was meteoric. He helped AMC to a double-overtime win over top 10-ranked Trinity in just his second collegiate start and went on win conference Rookie of the Year as the Falcons finished 14-13. As a sophomore Askew paced the Falcons to a 23-7 mark and the second round of the NCAA DIII tournament.
But last season the Falcons went 18-10 and did not earn an NCAA berth.
“That was a definitely the wake-up call,” Askew said. “After winning the (GNAC) championship we just thought we could turn it on whenever we wanted. We felt that we’d win when we really needed to. That didn’t happen and we learned from it.”
Ready to graduate in May with a major in business administration he is finishing his business on the court with a flourish. He scored 52 points in a recent 76-73 win over Lasell while grabbing 10 rebounds. His season’s numbers, 25.0 ppg and 11.8 rebounds a game could be even gaudier if AMC wasn’t pounding teams so badly that in some games that he’s played as little as 15 minutes.
Albertus is 23-1 on the season and Askew truly believes the Falcons can win the national title.
“The rest of the guys don’t know what it was like,” Askew said. “I’ve been here since Day One. It’s good to get that type of respect but we’re still not done. I just do whatever the team needs me to do. Whether it’s getting every rebound or shooting a hundred 3’s I’ll do it. I just want my team to win and I know we have the ability to win it all.”
And then the sky’s the limit. Askew will graduate in May with a major in business administration. Oliver believes he can play professionally overseas.
“He should see where it takes him,” Oliver said. “Even if he plays for two years overseas, experiences that culture, and earns enough money for a down payment on a house. He can do it. He can no doubt play overseas.”
Said Askew: “I feel that I can play at any level. I just need to get that opportunity. I want to be able to prove everyone wrong.”
Askew said he wants to be remembered mostly as a great teammate while Oliver added that his best attribute is his persona.
“The most impressive thing about him is his demeanor,” Oliver said. “You see these guys all the time when they hit a 3-pointer and how they celebrate running down the court. They spend more time getting their handshake in at the beginning of the game. Ray doesn’t care about any of that and he gets hammered in games.
“He gets double and triple-teamed and he just plays. He doesn’t even change his expression. I’m just so fortunate to have a kid like that to start a program. He’s a great kid and a great student who has taken advantage and we’ll be linked here forever.”
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