Basketball has always come naturally for Wichita State senior Ashley Gladden.
Her mother, Angela Jones, raised her around the game. Jones played competitively for as long as she could, and then transitioned into officiating the game.
Gladden has always had a higher sense of basketball knowledge, which usually made her the most talented player on her team.
Until her senior season at Wichita State.
When the Shockers host Indiana State tonight at Koch Arena, Gladden likely won't have an impact on the result of the game — on the court, at least.
"I am used to playing a lot," Gladden said. "I'm used to starting. But I've realized now that what's best for my team. I've grown into my role. I've realized I can help my team without showing up in the box scores."
This season, Gladden is last off the bench and has played a total of 10 minutes in four Missouri Valley games.
"My role has changed tremendously," Gladden said. "And I'm fine with that. On this team, I am working on trying to build a foundation for a new start, a new era in Wichita State women's basketball."
As a senior, Gladden's playing time has been swallowed up by a trio of talented freshmen — Jazimen Gordon, Chynna Turner and Michelle Price.
Instead of taking the request to take a back seat to the youth personally, Gladden became even more supportive of her teammates.
"That's a sign of a great leader," Gordon said. "That's where I want to be. It just amazes me how she can be so positive with us. I'm just really blessed to have a leader like her on the team my freshman year."
During timeouts, Gladden is the first off the bench to greet the starters and her voice holds the same significance as a coach, which Adams has compared her to.
"I've realized how important my voice is to them," Gladden said. "They look to me. They look to hear my voice during games. I know that it means a lot to my team and I'm very proud of that."
Gladden's impact to the program will never show up on a stat sheet. But her worth will be evident in the coming years, when the freshmen grow up and mature into better players.
"I know when I graduate, I'll be able to walk out of here with a big smile on my face," Gladden said. "Through the years when I see the program on the up-and-up, I'll be able to say I helped those girls to where they are now. To me, that makes me feel good."