AJ Ansley assisted the First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlanders to their third state title, averaged 15 points per game in his senior year, was selected to the All-Region team three years in a row, to the All-State team twice and maintained a 3.56 gpa. If that weren’t enough, Ansley now strives to be a Senator.
A basketball Senator, that is. Ansley penned his name to a scholarship joining the Senator squad at Auburn University-Montgomery.
According to Senator head coach Larry Chapman, Ansley fit the model of what he expects from a student-athlete.
"He is a good person and he’s proven that by his track record not only academically but his personal life," Chapman said. "That is most important to me. If you’re not a good person it doesn’t matter to me if you can jump over the gym, I don’t want you. I’m only going to coach guys I like and respect so his personal character was important to me."
The coach said Ansley impressed him academically as well.
"Auburn-Montgomery is no joke," he said. "If you don’t come there prepared and committed and want a degree, you’re not going to be successful. Academically he has proven that he is capable of doing well."
Ansley said he was a bit nervous taking the next big step in his life, but said he was ready.
In addition to being a Highlander, Ansley was a member of the Coastal Crew Rebels. Rebels coach Mike Brown said it’s like watching one of his children leave the nest.
"It’s rough for me because I’ve known him since he was 13 years old and he and my son were raised together," he said. "Everywhere we went he went with us. He started playing ball as a youngster right in front of my house. He went from there to playing AAU ball and he got involved with Ernie Walthour and just kept progressing from one stage to another stage."
Ansley’s parents Arthur and Yong Ansley said he started playing basketball as a youngster in Fort Stewart’s recreation league. He was real short them.
"I figured he liked the game and he played real good," his dad said. "And as he progressed he just got better and better and taller and taller. Next thing I know he is taller than anybody. I hope he is successful and happy in life."
First-year Highlander coach David Jones said he was thrilled for Ansley and offered the young man serious advise on what to expect at the next level.
"You are starting over just like when you entered the ninth grade and everybody who is in college, even the guy sitting at the end of the bench, was probably a hero in his own little home town or at least his high school," Jones said he told Ansley. "The pecking order starts all over and you got to earn it every day."
But Jones was quick to point out that Ansley has the ability to make baskets.
"A lot of people can take shots, but he can shoot it," Jones said. "He uses the glass extremely well. He can handle the ball with either hand and he can finish with either hand. He’s got speed and he’s got quickness and those are two different things. He has excellent potential to step in as a freshman and contribute. Larry is recruiting him to help out as a freshman so the only person who can mess up AJ’s playing time is AJ himself."
"He’s big," Chapman said. "He has skill set to play away from the basket. He handles the ball, passes it and rebounds it well. He is the cornerstone in our program going forward. I’ve been there 32 years and I’ve coached some great players…And so here he is coming in not just to be a hopeful, but to be an immediate impact player on the basketball team."
Rebels founder Ernie Walthour said he was elated another Rebel player is headed to college. He said the Rebels emphasis is to help players excel academically and athletically and give them the exposure needed to be recruited.
"We are proud to have another Rebel that is headed out and we hope to have a few more when all is said and done," Walthour said.
"It’s going to be good," Ansley said about his future as a Senator. "I hope so. I already met the players and they are really cool. I haven’t run their offense, but we played pick up ball and I did pretty well. I felt comfortable with them."
He’s a great player and really he hasn’t reached his potential yet," Brown said.