Senior guard Ashley Dennis reached a career milestone on Saturday, becoming just the 27th player in school history to play in 100 games for the Hatters.
But in the middle of her sophomore season, Dennis faced a difficult decision on whether she would even continue to attend Stetson University.
"I found out my mom had breast cancer," Dennis said. "I went to talk to coach Bria, and she told me, 'If you need to go home and take care of your mom, do that.' The other girls had my back as well."
So Dennis went back home to Bexley, Ohio where she helped her mom through her cancer surgery. She was also able to help look after her younger brother who was still in high school.
"It was one of those moments when you realize life shouldn't be taken for granted," Dennis said. "You see your mom go through a surgery like that, and I just didn't know if I wanted to be that far away from my family. So I really struggled with the decision on whether to come back. I felt selfish being 15 hours from home and not being to help her whenever she needs it."
Dennis said her mom, who is now cancer-free, and her family encouraged her to return to Stetson to get her education and to get back to doing what she loves to do - playing basketball.
"Plus the girls, they were my second family, and I didn't want to leave them," Dennis said. "I knew this program was taking a turn for the better, and I wanted to be a part of what we started. We ended up winning the conference that year. I'm really, really glad I made the decision to come back, and I would make that decision over and over if I had to do it again."
Add head coach Lynn Bria to list of people extremely happy with Dennis's decision to return.
"Ashley is a perfect example of a player who just got better every single year," Bria said. "She's saved her best for last for her senior year. She takes charges, she dives for loose balls, she does whatever she can to help the team. She is the ultimate team player. As a coach you always wish for a bunch of Ashley Dennises on your team."
Dennis and the Hatters (12-4, 5-0) will be going for their ninth win in a row when Stetson faces ETSU at 7 p.m. Monday night in Johnson City, Tenn. While there is still a long way to go before this season is complete, Dennis knows her collegiate career will soon be coming to a close.
"This year has been so much fun because I can't hold anything back, I don't have any more time," Dennis said. "Every game I'm trying to play like its my last. I'm just trying to have fun. At the end of the day, I have some wonderful girls that are going through this year with me, and this senior class is big, we started together and I want to finish together. And why not have have fun while you are doing this? You might-as-well have the best time you can possibly have."