Ashley Williams: The Tip of Her Wolfpack Career

  • Name: Ashley Williams
  • Age: 18
  • Organization: Green Hope HS, NC State

Author: Patrick Kinas, creator.

(Photo courtesy: Ashley Williams.)

Sixteen years later, when hit just the right way, it still hurts.

It was a gruesome injury suffered at an age of a child numbered in months, not years. It provides a daily reminder to Ashley of a day that she barely remembers. Her dad colors in the details of a harrowing day. Her mom recalls a frightening phone call only telling her of a vague accident.

But nearly two decades after an ugly accident, it hasn’t slowed down a college freshman walk-on with an ACC basketball team. Just a mere four games into the regular season, the Reynolds Coliseum crowd has already anointed her as their favorite.

Wolfpack Bloodlines

Ashley Williams comes from thick NC State bloodlines. Her father Dan graduated from NC State. Her mother Sarah Jane, is also an alumnus of the Red and White. Even her sister Jennifer recently graduated from NC State. The decision was elementary for Ashley on where she would spend her post-high school education years.

Not that the prep basketball standout didn’t have options. Williams was recruited by Western Carolina. Elon. Even UT-Chattanooga had interest in Williams, which was coached by now-Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore. However, even with the prospect of earning a Division I basketball scholarship at those mid-major schools, the lure of lineage to NC State was too strong to ignore. Williams, graduating from Cary’s Green Hope High with a 4.7 GPA, was accepted to NC State and was a recruited walk-on to the Wolfpack program.

Through her first four non-conference games, Williams is tied for the team’s lead in made 3-pointers, and has played more minutes than three other full-scholarship players. During Williams’ third-ever game, she barely traipsed the court for a minute in the first half against Presbyterian, then went haywire from 3-point range, connecting on four 3s in an 11-minute span.

Those are the moments on which fans seize. A folk legend was born during that 2nd half. Suddenly, Wolfpack fans knew who #4 in red and white was.

The Story

“Even now, if it gets hit, it gets tender,” Williams said.

It’s a story that Williams needs help in recounting. She was so young when it occurred that the memories are miles in the distance, and the excruciating pain from that 1997 incident has subsided.


When asked about her “go-to” story a few days ago, Williams began to retell the details that obviously have been told to her hundreds of times in her life. But the experience was harrowingly lived through her parents.

Quickly, Williams, who was celebrating a fourth straight NC State win to start the 2013-14 season, waved her parents over.

Clearly they would have more vivid details of a day that Ashley barely remembers.

“She was 1 ½, maybe 2, and at day care,” Ashley’s mom Sarah Jane recounted. “We got a call that Ashley’s finger was slammed in a door. They were taking her to the E.R. and asked if we could meet you tem there. My husband at work. I was at work. It was just a harrowing experiencing to make that drive. They told us that her finger had been hurt.”

“They really didn’t tell us the severing detail.”

Severing detail?

At that moment, Ashley extended her left hand and placed her left hand against her right, palm against palm.

Sure enough. Her middle finger of her left hand is shorter than her counterpart on her right.

Ashley measures the severing in centimeters. Her mom preferred the U.S. measuring system.

“It’s more than a quarter of an inch,” Sarah Jane said. “Closer to a half-inch.”

As in, Ashley’s middle finger has been missing nearly a ½” since she was just able to walk.

As kids, we all have stories of bruises, scars or breaks as a result of some random act. I have a scar across my ear from where a baseball nearly ripped it off. There’s a scar near the top of my eye where an open safety pin caught me after I was doing an airplane spin in my family room as a young kid. Near misses are part of most any child’s carefree, invincible upbringing.

For Ashley, it wasn’t a silly moment, simply a slip that cost that ½”.

“I was about 2 years old,” Ashley said with her parents interjecting additional details. “I was attempting to open these thick pre-school doors. I was pushing on the wall, yanking the door with my right hand, and slipped.”

“The door slammed shut against my left hand, and that part of my finger was hanging and then completely fell off onto the floor.”

Perhaps we now know why the day care representative elected not to divulge that detail to Sarah Jane on the phone. Ashley was immediately on her way to REX Hospital, with her parents now on the way from Cary.

“The tip of it was hanging, but not completely severed,” Sarah Jane clarified. “It was really hard to look at, but harder to see Ashley. Someone that that little, that young, in that much pain.”

The doctors summoned to the scene stitched the finger back together.

“Eighteen stitches at least,” bellowed her father Dan, who remembers that day all too well. “They had to sew all the way around.”

“The doctors said the stitching likely wouldn’t take, in part because of the length of time it was detached,” Dan said, an engineer at Glaxo Smith Klein.

The finger, which was hanging on by a tiny piece of skin, had been detached for nearly a half hour.

“It would probably turn blue,” Dan continued. “Sewing it back on was the best bandage.

Looking closely at Ashley’s finger, there remains a portion of the fingernail. The door didn’t devour all of it.

“You can kind of see right there,” Williams says as she was pointing down to the slight abnormality. “It’s painful when it gets touched. The finger still has feeling, but it still hurts. Whatever is under the nail – some kind of skin – covers the opening to my finger.”

After leaving the hospital, weeks of rehab on Ashley’s finger started at Raleigh Orthopedics.

As the pain eased, and the fear was slowly assuaging, the rewards for her strength and courage started.

“She started to get a lot of attention,” Sarah Jane, who works at Duke Energy in IT, recalled. “The day care sent balloons with a teddy bear. She got to stay home for a few days. She loved the extra attention. But her sister was annoyed.”

Kids will be kids. Jealousy, even for a six-year-old, can be found in a younger sister’s detached fingertip.

“I never viewed this negatively in my sports career,” Ashley said. “It has been a positive. I’ve gotten to know other people who have had dismemberments. We’re resourceful.”

It’s Ashley’s go-to story. With the courage she put on display at the ripe age of two, and the fact that her missing ½” on her left hand has never affected her ability to shoot the 28 ½” women’s basketball, Williams may quickly find herself as Wes Moore’s “go-to” 3-point threat in the time it takes to close a day-care door.



NOrth CackiLaki 01/15/2016 @ 01:40AM
Maybe if she had the extra 1/4 inch, she could actually hit a 3 against Duke, instead of all the bricks. Cute girl though!!
Jean Hardy Wood 12/11/2015 @ 07:36PM
I had totally forgotten about this! Wow! You go girl!

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