Basketball phenom Ali Ginn closes the book on UCSD

    After leading the Tritons through a remarkable 2003-04 season and on to a first-ever National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II tournament berth, UCSD women’s basketball star senior Ali Ginn will leave her team after graduation.

    In her final season with the Tritons, the Carlsbad, Calif., native set the UCSD all-time scoring record with 1,308 points over four years of play and went on to earn All-California Collegiate Athletic Association Second Team honors along with teammate junior Margaret Johnson. The award marks the third consecutive season that Ginn has received recognition by the conference. In 2002, she was named to the All-CCAA Second Team as a sophomore, before becoming the first member in the history of the UCSD women’s basketball program to be awarded All-CCAA First Team honors in 2003.

    For all of her accomplishments, Ginn remains remarkably humble about herself and her achievements.

    “When I look back at playing this season, I don’t think of my success as a player and how much I achieved,” Ginn said. “I think of my teammates, the people I met and how much impact they have had on me.”

    On a squad like the Tritons, which has only thirteen active players and three redshirts, a positive relationship with one’s team becomes a crucial element in succeeding against other competitive Division II schools.

    “Playing at UCSD isn’t the easiest thing,” Ginn said. “There’s no financial support from the school for scholarships, and there is hardly any recognition from the student body — even after this season when we made the NCAA tournament.”

    The Tritons were downed by top-ranked Seattle Pacific University in Seattle in the West Regional First Round of the NCAA tournament on March 12, ending UCSD’s 2004 season.

    “It was nice to finish this year on a high note and to make the playoffs, because that’s been a goal of ours for as long as I’ve been here,” Ginn said. “I think that we could have done a lot better this year, but everything still came together for us in the end.”

    In the four years that Ginn has played for the Tritons, the element of teamwork has always been something to consider. After the 2002 season, when she earned All-CCAA Second Team honors, it became apparent that Ginn was turning into a significant leader on her team.

    “After sophomore year, I got an award and I realized that maybe I would have to step up over the next couple of years,” Ginn said.

    Without alienating herself from teammates, Ginn learned to assume a leadership role that enabled her to take charge on the court while simultaneously contributing as an equal member of the team.

    “I think that throughout my four years, I’ve learned how I can make myself better,” Ginn said. “No one can tell you how to prepare but yourself. I’ve learned to worry about the things that I can control, and not worry about the things that I can’t. If you do everything in your power to succeed, then you’ve done your best. There is nothing else you can do.”

    Adopting a team mentality was easier to adjust to and helped to distribute the responsibility of each member of the squad.

    “It was nice this year for me because the pressure wasn’t on me the whole game,” Ginn said. “A lot of people stepped up and suddenly, the pressure was off me.”

    Ginn’s most noteworthy accomplishment of the 2004 season was capping off her Triton career by breaking UCSD’s all-time scoring record. Coupled with three separate distinctions on All-CCAA teams, Ginn is no stranger to recognition for her athleticism.

    “It took a lot of time in the gym by myself, working on my shot and a lot of practice outside,” Ginn said. “It was a nice mark to leave on the program, but it won’t be there long. It’s a record and records are meant to be broken. It was a nice accomplishment because I feel like all my time at UCSD has paid off.”

    “Paid off” is an understatement. Ginn broke Lisa Beaver’s 1994 record of 1,274 career points which was set while UCSD was still in the less-competitive Division III. Ginn passed that mark despite a harder schedule and tougher opponents.

    “The old record was a Division III record,” Ginn said. “The competition at Division II is a lot stronger than Division III, so it’s definitely tougher to reach that mark than it used to be.”

    The scoring record may stand out as Ginn’s greatest gift to UCSD basketball, but it is important to remember that the All-CCAA teams onto which Ginn was elected are selected by the league’s coaches on the basis of a player’s ability every game, not just the sum of all her efforts.

    “Those awards are always nice because they come from the coaches, and you know that you have respect from other teams,” Ginn said. “I didn’t realize the respect that I’d earned throughout the season.”

    Regardless, the modest Ginn doesn’t let her accomplishments interfere with the impression she keeps of herself.

    “They’re nice to have, but it’s just an award, just a piece of paper,” Ginn said. “I’d be lying to say that it didn’t have any effect on the way I see myself as a player, but what’s a piece of paper?”

    The oldest child in her family, Ginn doesn’t model herself after older siblings or professional sports icons.

    “My parents are the ones I model myself after,” Ginn said. “My favorite basketball player is Charles Barkley, just because he will say whatever he wants to, but I don’t really try to model myself after anyone. I think it’s important to play with class, so I try to be a player who plays with class. I don’t know anyone these days who plays like that.”

    Ginn’s effect on the Triton basketball program will be lasting, though most evident in those women who had the opportunity to play on the court with her.

    “I think that people will know now that success comes with hard work,” Ginn said. “I didn’t know what it meant to work hard. In order to succeed, you have to put in a lot of extra time and energy to put yourself above the rest. I think that a few of [the women’s basketball players] are starting to come in and practice on their own. They are learning that is what it takes to be competitive in Division II.”

    In four years of competition at UCSD, Ginn leaves a phenomenal legacy behind.

    “I think first about the people on my team and the athletes in general,” Ginn said. “I think that’s been the best part, the way that these athletes all work hard and can hold a conversation. I don’t think I would have come or stayed here if not for that. I am a bit disappointed in our record, but I don’t have any regrets about playing for UCSD. There have been rough times, but you’re not going to get perfection anywhere you go.”

    As far as lasting impressions go, there is no doubt in Ginn’s mind about what her memories of playing as a Triton will reflect.

    “The one great thing about playing here has been my teammates,” Ginn said. “They have been the best thing about playing at UCSD.”

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