Basketball was just a fun pastime activity for Ashton Khan. Playing the game with his older brother and friends on a court in his neighbourhood of Scarborough in Toronto, Canada was just a hobby the boys enjoyed.
But with each lay up, each bounce pass, and each meticulously executed assist, Khan’s passion for the game grew. And he knew then at just six-years-old that he wanted to be a professional basketball player.
“It started out just playing outside for fun, and then it turned into a passion. Then I’d play at my local Recreation Centre, that was a big thing for me. I’d go to the Centre probably like four or five times a week. That’s where the love and passion really came, and then it was a snowball effect after that,” – Ashton Khan
Khan went on to play basketball in high school, at The Mother Theresa Catholic Secondary school, where he earned the additional responsibility of being captain of the team. At Mother Theresa Khan also became the other half of the best guard and big man combination in the country when he connected with Maurice Walker a 6’10 center. The dynamic duo would later journey from Mother Teresa, to Brewster Academy then into the professional ranks together.
While he was still in high school, Khan participated in a P.H.A.S.E 1 Youth Association basketball program and events, and he credits the organisation assisting in his development as a basketball player.
“It was a huge help in my career as it put me in an atmosphere where I was able to play against the best players in the city. It gave me the opportunity to elevate my game and improve my skills. Because I did well at a P.H.A.S.E. 1’s basketball showcase events, I was noticed and called to play for Team Canada U19 [under 19] team. So it was huge for me,” – Ashton Khan
Ashton Khan was born to lead and that isn’t just because he is a point guard. You could see it in him from an early age that he had great strength of character and was not easily distracted by the things other young ballers got caught in. He lives what he speaks and his life now as a family man and a man of great faith is a testimony to that. – Wayne Dawkins, P.H.A.S.E. 1
He then received a scholarship to attend the prominent Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, United States. The academy has produced basketball stars like Craig Brackins, and Jeff Adrien, Donavan Mitchell (Utah Jazz) and future roommate Will Barton (Denver Nuggets), Khan was psyched to attend such a distinguished school.
“ I was extremely excited to receive a scholarship to one of the best basketball high schools in the US. I was anxious and ready to get to work. I spent the summer preparing before I arrived. – Ashton Khan
Khan played point guard on the team, and in 2010, the academy won the National Championship, and the NEPSAC and became the number one basketball school in America.
One of the major highlights for Khan was when the team played against Northfield Mount Hermon and beat them 72-69 in the National Championships. Khan scored 13 of those points.
It was no surprise then that he was sought after by many universities. He accepted a full scholarship to Canisius College in New York where he spent two years, before transferring to Tiffin University in Ohio where again he earned the respect of his coaches and teammates and was named captain of the team.
Professional Career – The Leadership Continues
Khan began his professional career at the Worcester Wolves in the UK, and captained the 2017-2018 season in British Basketball League. In 2018-2019, he played for and was captain of the Cheshire Phoenix, another team in the British Basketball League.
Now, at 28-years-old, Khan is playing for Bozhou, a Chinese basketball team, where he is also captain of the team.
It is not by accident Khan has been named captain at every level. His role as a leader on the court is something Khan has never taken for granted. He acknowledges that it is a role that he has had to learn, and relearn over the years.
“Being a captain it comes with a lot of responsibilities not just in the game, it’s even how you carry yourself at practice. It’s like you’re going to work so are you going to show up to work early, or right on time? Are you going to leave work as soon as it’s done or are you going to stay back a little bit after and get some work in? They’re looking at how you carry yourself at practice, in the weight room, in interviews. All these things are what’s being looked for in players by coaches and team owners. So it’s definitely a role that has to be taken seriously,” – Ashton Khan
However, the added responsibility of being captain of various teams throughout the years, has not prevented Khan from enjoying the benefits of being part of a team.
“I like the fact that you can learn the skill of communication because that is something that you can take outside of basketball into the real world. Also, some of these people who were your teammates, they turn into your brothers, and lifelong friends. I have some very good friends that I met in university, they were my teammates first, and then they turned into friends. and they are still my friends today,” – Ashton Khan
One such lifelong friend that Khan cherishes is Evan Pellerin. He describes their relationship as close, and Pellerin as his mentor.
“He has a lot of experience in the overseas profession so I get a lot of advice from him. He’s been playing professionally for 15 years in Europe so he was someone I was able to lean on and speak to about certain situations that would come about, and how to improve my basketball skills,” – Ashton Khan
Training is an integral part of how Khan improves his skills on the court. He trains three times per day, at least four times each week.
“I’ll get up at around 8 o’clock. I’ll have my breakfast, go to the basketball gym in the morning and do a workout. Then around lunch time I’ll go to like a workout facility to a body workout, and then after that I’ll rest. In the evening, my friends and I will play basketball,” – Ashton Khan
And while Khan is hardcore on the court, his musical taste is somewhat the opposite. During a workout or before a game, Khan likes to feel ‘mellow’, and the songs that will get him there are anything from Justin Beiber.
“Sometimes I feel like when I’m going into a basketball game or any competition my adrenaline is already up and rushing and I’m already anxious so sometimes I like to listen to music that’s more mellow to calm me down, so I’ll pop on a Justin Beiber,” he said, laughing.
There’s two other things that Khan needs to do before hitting the court. Stock up on some carbs from a pasta dish, and pray with his teammates.
“It’s not like a ‘Oh God let us win the game’. It was just more like ‘God, let us all be thankful that we can play this game, let there be no injuries for our team for the other team, let the fans enjoy the game’, something like that,” – Ashton Khan
And while he’s on the court competing, he tries to find a balance between winning and having fun.
“Sometimes the more you invest in competing the more it hurts when you lose as well. So you try to get a little bit of a balance, but competing is always what makes the game fun,” – Ashton Khan
And if that balance is difficult to achieve then, he thinks of his daughter, whose date of birth he wears proudly on his jersey.
“She was born in 2010, so I wear the number 10. I’m so far across the world so I never really had my family coming to my game that often. My wife has come so that was nice to have my wife in England to visit, and playing in front of her was a really good feeling, but on a regular basis, it’s my daughter for sure,” – Ashton Khan
After the games, an ice bath, from his hips down to cool his aching legs is routine.
So many opportunities in Basketball
When Khan reminisces on his life, he knows that he could not have been the person he is today without basketball.
“When I was young I thought that my city was it, I didn’t know that there was a lot of life outside of my city or country, but basketball helped me realize that it’s not about basketball. it’s about using the sport and the gift that I got from God to gain life experiences that I can take with me forever,”
“Being an athlete can open your mind up to different cultures, being an athlete can help you build your network, being an athlete can help you meet some people that can be in your life forever. Being an athlete in my situation helped me meet my wife. Being an athlete can do a lot of good things for you, but you gotta know how to take advantage of those situations,” – Ashton Khan