Max Ashton and Hollman Smith: Mason basketball’s dynamic duo

West Hagler, Staff Reporter

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Since they were kids, seniors Max Ashton and Hollman Smith spent a majority of their time together with a basketball in hand. Whether it was shooting around at the Rec Center as middle schoolers, or attending practice everyday as high schoolers, basketball has always been a huge part of the lives.

On the court, Ashton and Smith are a duo that can give any competitor trouble. After years of learning each other’s playstyles and running formations in practice, they have become a threatening combination. But the two haven’t just grown into great teammates, they have also become best friends.

“We’ve been friends since Kindergarten,” said Ashton. “I remember we would play basketball at the bus stop before school.”

“Having a strong relationship off the court helps for sure. We’ve been on the same team since the 6th grade, so we just know how to play well together,” added Smith.

Hollman Smith and Max Ashton stand side by side holding trophies as 7th graders

Hollman Smith (left) and Max Ashton (right) as 7th graders receiving trophies for their Rec basketball team. This was only the second of seven years playing on the same teams (Photo Courtesy of Surbhi Ashton).

And the two showed this in their Senior Night performances on January 5 against Clarke County. Nerves were high for the team as Mason had the opportunity to clinch an undefeated regular season in their district by beating the Eagles.

Going into the game Smith was just 13 points shy of a 1,000 point career, and Ashton was only 22 points from breaking Mason’s all-time career scoring record.

“I was definitely nervous going into that game, but I still had stay focused for the team,” said Ashton.

The stage was set for something big to happen, and Mason capitalized on this opportunity by meeting all of their goals; Mason beat the Eagles 64 – 33, achieving a 10-0 record in District play, and Coach Capannola led his team to an impressive victory in his last Senior Night as a coach. Ashton broke the scoring record on a rebound turned layup, and Smith scored his thousandth point on a standard two-point jump shot, all of which happened in front of the largest home crowd of the season.

Both Ashton and Smith reached 1,000 career points this year, becoming two of only four Mason basketball players to do so in our school’s history. Even for a single player, this is an amazing feat, but for two players to do so in the same year says everything about their bond.

Max Ashton and Hollman Smith holding three trophies.

Hollman Smith and Max Ashton holding the district championship and regional runner-up trophies. Ashton is also holding the bull run MVP award trophy. The pair have racked up many accolades in their years playing together (Photo by Jay Nesson)

“I don’t know how rare it is to find two players that work that well together, but I’ve never seen it before. No duo just shows up and is great together. Even at the pro level, it takes time to work that well together.” said Head Coach Chris Capannola. “When you’re on a team together, there’s either animosity or love for the team and for the game, and those two chose the latter.”

However, both of the seniors’ high school careers came to an unfortunate end in a loss against Goochland High School in the first round of the State Tournament on March 1. Even so, the friends remain hopeful for their futures.

“Basketball will for sure be a part of our lives for a long time. Max and I love playing pickup so we’ll definitely keep playing in college,” said Smith.

But both are unsure of their futures as competitors. Ashton decided to attend UVA in the fall and is even considering walking on at one of the top basketball programs in the country. Smith hasn’t decided what school he will attend, or whether his future will include competitive basketball. Both consider academics to be their first priority, but their love for the game will never die.