Choptank Communication’s Public Relations Director Brent Burkhardt contributed this article on Chesapeake College’s basketball standout Ashley Pelgram to the Star Democrat as part of their original content campaign.
By Brent Burkhardt, Special to The Star Democrat
WYE MILLS — When Virginia Commonwealth guard Ashley Pegram talks about the importance of a good first step, she could be referring to a slashing drive to the basket or her freshman year at Chesapeake College.
After leading the Skipjacks to the NJCAA Division II national championship quarterfinals in 2013-14, Pegram, 20, is now a second-year starter for the VCU in her hometown of Richmond, Va.
The initial year at Chesapeake allowed her to mature and prepare for the rigors of pursuing a college education while playing Division I basketball.
“Chesapeake was a big help; it was my stepping stone,” Pegram said. “I got to see how the work would be, and I learned how to manage my time. When I got to VCU, there wasn’t too much difference, and I was able to transition.”
Pegram, now a junior, is studying criminal justice at VCU with a minor in homeland security. On the court, she’s averaging nine points a game for the 14-6 Rams.
VCU had a strong non-conference start this year, according to Pegram, including a road win against 17th-ranked Arizona State University, the Rams’ first victory against a Top 25 team since 1988. She led VCU in scoring during victories against Coppin State, Furman and University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
The team is now in the thick of its Atlantic 10 schedule, where it sits in the middle of the pack with a 4-5 record in conference games and 15-7 overall.
“Conference play is important,” Pegram said. “We want to get a good spot for the tournament.”
The 5-foot-8 guard’s well-rounded skills on the court have contributed to the Rams’ winning record.
“AP has been a great addition to our program,” VCU head coach Beth O’Boyle said. “She is an integral part of our high-tempo offense and is one of our top defenders. It’s great to have a local standout as part of our team, too. Having her family at games is a lot of fun.”
Pegram’s journey to Chesapeake began when Skipjacks coaches first observed at a high school all-star game in Richmond.
The staff told her that after a year at Chesapeake, moving up to a Division I school was a possibility, as long she played well and achieved good grades.
“I trusted that advice,” Pegram said, “and Chesapeake ended up being the right decision for me.”
Pegram averaged 23.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Skipjacks. She was one of only 10 players nationally — and the only freshman — named to the NJCAA Division II All-America team.
“Ashley was a strong rebounder, shooter and defender for us,” said Chesapeake head coach Gwen Barnes, who was an assistant when Pegram played. “She hustled on the court, but most important, she stayed committed to her academics. Her accomplishments at VCU show that players who attend Chesapeake will leave with an understanding of how to balance academics and athletics and how to work through challenges by staying focused.”
Division I offers for Pegram soon followed from the likes of Old Dominion, East Carolina and Norfolk State. But the choice to return home and play at VCU was attractive.
Pegram said she is looking into cyber security or being a fingerprint specialist when she graduates from VCU. She offers the following advice for other high school athletes considering Chesapeake or another junior college program to start their college education and playing career: “If you’re capable, go with it and be confident. Keep your grades up and it should work out. It definitely did for me.”