Cleveland Heights senior gets “fifth” year; overcomes injury, illness and more

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Cleveland Heights senior Aaron Ashley has a titanium rod in his leg and beat a rare disease known as Guillain Barre Syndrome.

Perseverance is a word often used to describe Cleveland Heights’
Aaron Ashley. The 6-4 senior has overcome two years worth of injury and
illness and is once again back on the basketball court after getting a fifth-year of eligibility from the OHSAA. Looking for a feel-good story? This is it.


Perseverance is a word often used to describe Cleveland Heights’ senior Aaron Ashley. The 6-4 Ashley has overcome two years worth of injury and illness to once again find himself in the place he feels most comfortable, the basketball court.

Ashley was injured in the first game of his junior season (2008-2009) when an attempted dunk went execrable. The outcome of the injury was a broken leg, which was snapped completely in half. A titanium rod was put in his leg during surgery.

Cleveland Heights went 20-4 despite Ashley’s absence before losing to Warren Harding in the district tournament. 

The Cleveland-product battled back, healed, and started his rehabilitation to get back on the court at full strength for his senior season. Things were going as planned until Ashley came down with mononucleosis in the fall of his “initial” senior year.

It got worse. Mononucleosis turned into a rare disease known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. According to the disease’s web site (www.guillainbarresyndrome.com), the illness “occurs after an acute infectious procedure. Guillain Barre Syndrome initially affects the peripheral nervous system. Normally it is an acute form of paralysis in lower body area that moves towards upper limb and face.”

Ashley put the disease in simple terms.

“I got very weak and I could barely move,” he said.

Fortunately, Ashley got the proper treatment and was able to once again bounce back. It has, however, been a long, hard struggle for the Cleveland Heights’ senior.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association granted him an extra year of eligibility, which is why this miracle young man is back on the court.

Ashley is back on the hardwood where he belongs, but it wasn’t always easy especially watching his friends playing the game he loves for the past two years.

“Oh, it was very tough, very tough,” Ashley described. “(It was) some very long nights, but I’m glad I’m back out here with my teammates. We are 12-3, but we still got work to be done.”

The 6-4 senior is averaging 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists per game for the Tigers. In reality, it was a wonder for him to even practice and get a uniform, but Ashley’s expectations are far greater.

“I still think I need quite a bit more work,” Ashley observed. “I’m getting there. The coaching staff helps me out with my upper body strength. Another year I should be back to where I was as a sophomore.”
Ashley speaks of a sophomore campaign in which he was one of the best players in his class (2010). He was long, athletic, and multi-dimensional making him a definite D-I prospect.

For now, the athleticism is gone but the rest of his game is catching up. With the lack of athleticism, Ashley has developed more of an outside game and not just relied on his former ability to get to the cup. Doing the latter makes Ashley somewhat tentative.

“I’m sometimes pretty hesitant, but I know I have to get over that fear,” said the personable Ashley. “I have to just keep pushing. My athleticism is getting there, but it needs a little more work. I think I can get there over time. I just have to take it step-by-step.”

It is clear Ashley knows he is just a part of the big picture, which he says is the best Cleveland Heights team he has been involved with.

“Oh yes, this is a very good team,” Ashley proclaimed. “This team is basically a family. We are always hanging out together and kicking it with each other. This is a very close team.”

Ashley and his teammates have faced a daunting out-of-conference slate, but now the real challenge starts with the brutal Lake Erie League with likes of Mentor, Shaker Heights, Warren Harding and Euclid.

“Every night is a challenge, and you can’t sleep walk,” Ashley said. “Our league is very tough. We got to bring it everyday. There are no cakewalks.”

The Tigers have remaining encounters with LEL foes Shaker Heights, Warren Harding, Euclid, and another game with Mentor along with an out-of-conference match up with Canton McKinley.

Regardless of record, schedule, statistics, or anything else, Ashley is already a proven winner in our book.

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