Imagine being a teenager and receiving social media messages from strangers saying they hope their daughters grow up to become like you.
Or having young girls come up to you with a star-struck look on their face.
Or being called the female version of Canadian basketball legend Steve Nash.
These have all happened to Aislinn (Ace) Konig.
“Female Steve Nash? I don’t know about that,” Konig questioned.
But there is no denying that Konig is a special talent.
“These people have never met me. It is honestly very humbling to think that there is a little girl out there that is going to be like me and I might have been the person who motivated her to work hard,” she said.
Konig wins player of the year award
On Saturday night, Konig was named the female high school player of the year by Basketball BC at a banquet in Richmond.
She wasn’t on hand to accept the award, however, as the soon-to-be 18-year-old (her birthday is on May 20) left for Raleigh, North Carolina last week.
Konig, a five-foot-nine point guard, is joining the North Carolina State Wolfpack women’s basketball program. The Division 1 program plays out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), one of the country’s top conferences.
And Konig had plenty of suitors to chose from as she received hundreds of letters from both American and Canadian colleges and universities who wanted to land the talented basketball player from Brookswood Secondary.
ESPN has Konig ranked 38th among the North American class of 2016 — she is just one of two Canadians listed — including being the ninth ranked point guard among the incoming freshman class. Her score of 97 puts her as a five-star recruit, a high-major plus prospect. The top score is a 98.
The ESPN grading scale reads “player demonstrates rare abilities. Should have an immediate impact at a national program.”
“I probably woke up most of our neighbourhood when I screamed,” chuckled North Carolina State coach Wes Moore when Konig declared she was choosing his program last June.
“I instantly ran to the grocery store right before they closed and bought a big steak and celebrated.”
Basketball a family game
The fact Konig plays basketball should come as little surprise.
Her parents, Frank and Tanya, played at the collegiate level as did everyone on her mother’s side.
And her father has coached at the club, high school, college and university levels.
He coached his daughter the past couple of summers on the U.S. AAU circuit, with a club team, BC’s Finest.
“I had grown up watching basketball my whole life. My dad would coach teams and I was the water girl. I can actually remember the first time I made a lay-up. I had been practising for weeks and weeks in the gym,” she recalled.
She was four or five years old when she made that first basket.
“I was hucking it up and it finally went in and I celebrated. It was a big deal.”
Scholarship the goal
Konig was in the seventh grade when she set her sights on a basketball college scholarship.
“I was behind the curve a little bit because girls had been playing two or three years earlier than me so I had to work very, very hard and my dad played a huge role in that,” she said.
“For the most part it was self-driven and he helped with that.”
The following year, while she was playing for a junior girls team — despite being only in Grade 8 — Konig dropped 40 points in a game.
“There were lots of different glimpses of her athletic ability, but that was when it kind of really said she could be good,” Frank Konig said.
She played the following year in Vancouver, Wash. before the family moved back, settling in Cloverdale with Konig joining the Brookswood Bobcats program out of Langley.
Konig makes history as three-time MVP
What followed was three consecutive B.C. 3A senior girls provincial championships for Brookswood, with Konig winning the most valuable player award each time — the only person in the history of the tournament to accomplish that feat.
“I have had good ones, but she is special,” said long-time Brookswood coach Neil Brown.
“She has this real inner belief in herself. That is very rare for a young kid.”
What sets Konig apart from others is her dedication and willingness to put in the time and effort required to succeed.
“Ace embraces hard work, as humans we tend to avoid it,” Brown said.
“Out of the hundreds of kids I have coached, I would say only a handful of them have had incredible work ethics and Ace is one of them.”
That hard work isn’t limited to the basketball court, either.
On her own initiative, Konig approached her teachers at Brookswood and did two months of course work on her own, completing all her assignments just so she could finish school early and get off to Raleigh.
She is even missing her high school graduation.
But all of this is to prepare for the challenges of university basketball.
It is never an easy transition from high school to post-secondary, especially south of the border.
In high school, teams tend to have a couple of dominant players.
But in university, the rosters are filled with those top athletes who are now all battling one another in practice for playing time on the team.
But Moore is confident in Konig’s abilities.
“I definitely think she is going to make a major impact for us (as a freshman),” the coach said.
“We feel Ace is going to be ahead of a lot of freshman.
“It is a big jump from high school to the ACC, it is a very competitive conference, but we feel like is very mature for her age both on the court and off.”
“She is definitely someone who is going to give us a lift and raise our team to another level the moment she steps onto campus.”
He cited her leadership and her decision-making — knowing when to pass and when to be aggressive and shoot — as key attributes.
“She is one of those kids who makes everyone around her better,” Brown said, adding that Konig is a true leader, one who makes sure to recognize every player on the team for their contribution, whether it is big or small.
Playing for Canada at U18 championships a goal
In addition to preparing for her freshman season, Konig is hoping to land a spot on Canada Basketball’s U18 roster.
She is scheduled to attend a tryout camp next month and should she make the final roster, Konig would represent Canada in Chile in July at the eight-team FIBA U18 world championships.
Canada is in a pool with Puerto Rico, Chile and Mexico.
The other pool has Venezuela, the United States, Guatemala and Brazil.