Green adjusting to Panthers

Knocking down a three in a 71-43 road victory last year over the GoHawks, graduate AJ Green is now a starter for the UNI Panthers. Green holds the record as the all time scoring leader for the Tigers.

A.J. Green will forever be a name that bounces off the CFHS gym for setting Iowa high school history by the use of his hands and a basketball. Green was a four-star recruit and a first-team All-State pick three times. He is also the all-time leading scorer in school history after his 2017-18 season. 

Green also left a mark for his drive and passion and ability to inspire motivation in his teammates. “He had the ability to elevate the level of play in our practices because others respected him and he never took a day, or a play, off.  When you get your best player doing these things and buying in completely, your whole team is elevated and special things happen,” coach Ryan Schultz said. 

Former teammate and now senior Jack Campbell who was part of Green’s successful high school basketball career said that Green was one of a kind. “AJ brought pretty much everything. He could score, he could play defense. He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played with.” 

Green continues to utilize his talents and teamwork skills, but for a different jersey. The freshmen at University of Northern Iowa (UNI) now turns in the name “Tiger” for the “Panthers.” “I never have any regrets about deciding to come to UNI or to play basketball in college. It has always been a dream of mine, and I am so glad that I am able to put on the UNI jersey and represent this program,” Green said. 

Green is now coached by his father, the assistant coach Kyle Green, and head coach Ben Jacobson, but the team is not new to Green. Being the son of the assistant coach, he has been with the team since he was in diapers. 

“There were many factors that came into play when deciding to go to UNI to play basketball, with some being that I already had a great relationship with all the players and the coaching staff since I had been around the program so much growing up,” Green said. “One of the biggest reasons was that my dad is a coach there and being able to have him at my games and be a part of my college experience meant a lot to me.”

In high school, Green would spend hours at the gym, never letting himself become complacent. “AJ is a pure shooter. He is great with both hands, and he has a superb feel for the game. However, I truly think his greatest attributes are his work ethic, his competitive nature, his ability to lead and his confidence/killer instinct on the court. These have all allowed him to hone his basketball skills, and they are what makes him a truly special player,” Schultz said. “There are a lot of physically gifted and skilled kids out there, but he not only has the talent and skills, he has the intangibles to go with them.” 

Although Green’s words may be few, his actions speak loudly. The people around him pick up on his ability to initiate action. “He doesn’t talk that much, but he leads by example and he is a great leader. He is always super nice to everyone, no matter if they’re the best player on the team or the worst. I just think it speaks to his character. He’s very respected around Cedar Falls and the state of Iowa,” Campbell said. 

“His biggest strength in being a teammate is probably just his leadership, and probably just setting an example for the rest of the team,” said father and assistant coach at UNI, Kyle Green. 

UNI dorms may just be a few miles away from home for Green, and he has grown up with the UNI team, but Green is still making adjustments to the college lifestyle and game. “I have learned so much since being at UNI that it would be tough to say it all, but I think what I have learned the most about the game is just how it is supposed to be played,” he said. “Also I have learned what it takes in order for your team to be successful and separate yourself from other college teams.”

Frericks said Green’s only goal is “to get better,” and that he won’t stop until he will. 

Green continues this attitude in college. Knowing that defense is not his strongest position, he continues to work at and not ignore the challenge. “So far the biggest challenge for me is`again defense,” Green said. “Knowing how you are supposed to defend with the right positioning, and fighting through screens was very tough for me, and I still am not great at it. I wouldn’t say I have overcome that challenge yet and really am not close to but I am going to keep working and learning as much as possible so that I can overcome it.” 

Schultz said he believes aggressiveness will develop naturally in Green as he develops more skills for the game in college. “I really don’t think AJ has any glaring weaknesses. He will have to continue to get stronger and learn to play more physical, but that will happen naturally.” 

Despite the fame that surrounds Green, he never lets himself primarily focus on his basketball career. He puts the team’s success before his own. “AJ was all about the team and winning.  He understood that the individual accolades would take care of themselves and that success always came through the team. He always gave his teammates credit when things were going well and he always took responsibility when we were struggling. Furthermore, he loved to see his teammates succeed and do well. That’s the sign of a special teammate,” Schultz said. 

Green’s father’s has always told his son that the success will follow the hard work and the learning experience. “I have always emphasized to him that he must enjoy what he is doing and understand that his entire basketball career is about learning and striving to be his best.  If he enjoys the process and works hard, the success will take care of itself,” coach Green said.

Schultz said he believes with the skills and leadership that Green has developed and utilized in the game, there is nothing that can hold him back from succeeding at UNI. “AJ has all the skills and attributes to be a tremendous college basketball player, and I’ve never seen a person work harder in such a detailed, tenacious way. He  is a freshmen playing at an extremely high level, so there will naturally be some adjustment and some ups and downs.  Just getting used to the physicality, speed and the schedule will pose some challenges. With that said, it’s all a normal part of the process, and I know AJ will adjust and do great things for the Panthers,” he said.

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