The Wolfpacker

November 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 83 of 139

82 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY BRIAN RAPP T o say that Aislinn Konig is a rarity among the hundreds of players who have suited up for NC State women's basketball may be a ma- jor understatement. Only the second native of Canada (fol- lowing 2017 graduate Jennifer Mathurin) to wear the red and white in the program's 46-year history, the oldest daughter of Tanya Johnson and Frank Konig boasts not only an unusual first name (Celtic in origin, meaning "Dream Come True"), but an ancestral line that begins in mainland China with her grandmother (Ruth John- son), meanders through Texas and winds up in British Columbia. Both her father and mother are former hoopsters, and her 75-year-old grandfather, Harold Johnson, is still active on the senior circuit. "There's a lot of basketball in my fam- ily," the senior point guard acknowledged, before adding that not only does her younger sister, currently a sophomore in high school, play, but her aunts and uncles on her mother's side all played in college — with her father coaching the uncles at the University of the Fraser Valley in Vancouver. Add in the fact that dad is a personal friend of ex-NBA star Steve Nash, and it's easy to understand why the Pack player simply known as "Ace" was seemingly destined to play basketball — and why she is now one of the veterans who will lead NC State's quest for another NCAA Tour- nament invitation after back-to-back visits to the Big Dance. "It's exciting, all the higher expecta- tions," Konig said prior to the start of the team's formal practices in late September, when the Pack was ranked No. 9 in one preseason poll — its highest ranking in almost 30 years. "I feel like we've been so used to being out of the conversation — we're a team people seem to forget. Now, it's exciting." As the lone three-year starter returning this season, Konig is aware of the raised expectations for her own performance, par- ticularly when it comes to serving as an on- court leader for the first time in her career. According to her coaches, it's a role that she's accepted with open arms, after setting a new single-season NCSU record with 93 made three-point shots and hitting a career- best 40.1 percent from long range. "I'm really proud of her," head coach Wes Moore said. "She's come in really mo- tivated and has shown a lot of good leader- ship qualities. She had a heck of a year last year; she's showing a lot of confidence and is just in a good place right now." "She's one of those who will do 100 per- cent of what she needs to do on the floor, and it's been awesome to watch her pro- gression as a vocal leader," assistant Simon Harris, who coaches NC State's backcourt personnel, added. "It's impressive to see how she's been with the freshmen, not only in how she's gone about her business but how she's helped them, having not been through this situation [transitioning from prep to the ACC level]. "She's there day to day, showing them what they need to be doing, making sug- gestions, being a second voice for the coaching staff, which is something we've tried to instill in her." Leadership seems to be a natural trait for someone who's been the lone Pack player in recent memory to play for a national team — something Konig has done for the various Canadian age group squads since she was 14. "You're basically playing with pros in that situation, so being exposed to vocal leaders, and gaining that kind of experience has really helped her develop those quali- ties," Harris pointed out. "Our young kids see how she approaches things and mold their approach to hers." And like her teammates, Konig was forced to take on added responsibilities last year when Kaila Ealey, the team's re- A WINNING HAND Pack's Aislinn "Ace" Konig Shoots For Three-Point Record And Another Step Toward The Final Four BASKETBALL PREVIEW 2019-20

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