As a reserve forward for the Stanford women’s basketball team, Ashley Cimino knows a thing or two about being ready to go.

Cimino, a former McAuley High standout and two-time Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, is chasing an NCAA championship with the Cardinal for a third straight season. Stanford will face Oklahoma in the Final Four on Sunday night in San Antonio, Texas.

“I’m just always ready whenever they need me,” said Cimino, a junior. “In a game or practice. Getting the team ready on the scout team. I’m not the focal point like in high school and I’ve had a few years to kind of adjust to that.

“The NCAA tournament is just such a completely different experience. It’s really fun.”

Cimino has averaged just 3.5 minutes per game this season — 0.5 points and 0.6 rebounds.

She plays behind stars like Nnemkadi Ogwumike, a 6-foot-2 forward who led the Pac-10 with 18.5 points per game and a 62.9 shooting percentage.

“At 90 percent of the other colleges in this country she would be playing significantly more,” said Wil Smith, her former coach at McAuley.

“In three years she’ll have had the opportunity to have gone to three Final Fours. And she’s getting a great education in a great place.

She’s a coach’s dream. She works hard. Doesn’t complain and accepts her role.

“When you have players of that talent level take that attitude, it’s no wonder you make it to the Final Four,” said Smith.

Cimino has gotten playing time in all but one of the team’s tournament victories so far: five minutes in a 79-47 win against UC Riverside to open the tourney, and another six minutes in a 96-67 win over Iowa in the second round.

Cimino hit two free throws against Iowa.

In the Sweet 16 against Georgia, Cimino played six minutes and snagged two defensive rebounds.

She didn’t get into the team’s Elite Eight game when it squeaked by Xavier, 55-53.

Regardless, she’ll take it.

“It’s been an awesome ride. Coming here I was expecting to play with great players,” said Cimino. “I have the opportunity to be at Stanford, be a part of the basketball team. And practicing day in and day out with these players has improved not only my game but how I look at the game.”

In other words, said Cimino, she’s learned a lot.

“My basketball IQ has gotten better. I really know the game,” said Cimino.

Being a role player day in and day out takes a special player, said Smith.

“It can be a very difficult role if you are a person who felt entitled and didn’t feel like you needed to earn everything you got,” said Smith.

“Ashley is not that person. She’s works hard every summer. And every winter break she’s in the gym working hard. That’s what attracted Stanford to her in the first place.”

Stanford is projected to cruise past the Sooners (27-10) to the championship game for a likely rematch with mighty Connecticut, the field’s overall No. 1 seed.

The undefeated Huskies (35-0) are the only team responsible for handing Stanford (35-1) a loss this year.

“It’s always in the back of our minds, thinking about who we’d face,” said Cimino. “We follow the other brackets. But really, we just kind of take it one game at a time.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]