Jim O'Connor
Scranton G Zach Ashworth

Brian Lester, NCAA.com

Zach Ashworth has spent his career at the University of Scranton lighting nets on fire. Scoring in double figures in 80 of the 99 games he has played, Ashworth’s ability to crank out points has allowed him to become one of the greatest players in Scranton history.

Ashworth never doubted himself as a player. He knew coming out of Central Bucks West High School in Pennsylvania that he had a shot at being successful in college. What didn’t cross his mind was the idea of eventually becoming one of the marquee players in Division III basketball.

“I never doubted what I could do in basketball,” Ashworth said. “I believed I could play at this level. I just never expected things to go as well as they have for me.”

To say things have gone well for the 6-foot-2 senior guard is a little bit of an understatement.

Ashworth has scored in double figures in his last 43 games, highlighting the hot streak with a 19-point performance against Susquehana earlier this month. The Royals won the game 81-64 and Ashworth became only the 15th player in school history to score 1,500 points.

Make no mistake, the milestone means something to him. Yet, Ashworth will not take all of the credit for his success, even if he is leading the team in scoring by dropping in 20.2 points per outing.

“My teammates do a good job of putting me in situations where I can score,” Ashworth said. “I feel like our team has done a better job of moving the ball around this season. I do score a lot of points but there are other guys on this team capable of having big games.”

Ashworth speaks the truth. 

Tommy Morgan, Luke Hawk and Matt Swaback have all taken turns leading the team in scoring this season. Together they’ve helped the Royals rattle off 12 consecutive wins and take a spot atop the Landmark Conference standings.

“The fact that teams put so much focus on trying to stop me has opened the door for others to step up and knock down shots,” Ashworth said. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates for the success we have had as a team this season.”

Ashworth has started 85 games in his career and has scored 20 points or more 33 times. In a recent game against Catholic, Ashworth scorched the scoreboard for 31 points as the Royals rolled to a 78-68 win against the preseason conference favorite in Washington D.C. His point total has reached 1,567, which is good for 12th all-time on the school scoring list.

But Ashworth didn’t walk onto the floor as a freshman four years ago and become an instant star.

“The game is a lot faster at this level and it definitely took me time to adjust to it,” Ashworth said. “I had to work hard to improve my game and it’s paid off. I’m playing well and the team is, too. It’s all I could ask for as a senior.”

While scoring takes center stage for Ashworth, he is far from being a one-dimensional player. His other numbers are impressive as well, including the 124 steals and 259 assists.

With the strong offensive game in place, it was the defensive part that he focused on the most throughout his college career.

“I’ve worked a lot on getting in front of my man more and not try to cheat as much to get steals,” Ashworth said. “I know defense is the key to winning championships and it’s an important aspect of the game. I have had to work at it during my career and I feel like I’ve improved a lot.”

Success goes beyond the basketball court for Ashworth. He was on the Landmark Conference All-Academic team a year ago and was a second-team selection on the ESPN The Magazine All-Academic team last season as well in addition to being an ESPN The Magazine District II All-Academic First-Team selection.

“Getting an education is my No. 1 priority,” Ashworth said. “Balancing school with basketball and working a part-time job has helped me stay focused. I don’t think I would be as focused if I had a lot of free time during the day.”

There are still seven games remaining in the regular season. While the Royals are cruising at 14-2 overall and 7-0 in the conference, Ashworth knows easing off the gas pedal isn’t an option as the team heads down the stretch.

He didn’t have an opportunity to play in the NCAA tourney a year ago because the team failed to qualify. The reigning Landmark Conference Player of the Year doesn’t want to deal with that empty feeling again.

“I played in the [NCAA] tournament as a freshman and sophomore, so I took it for granted that we would always be there,” Ashworth said. “It was tough not getting to go last year and I am motivated to lead us back there. I want us to go as far as we can possibly go. I only have so many games left and I want to make the most of them.”