Ansong looking to up his game for Phoenix down the stretch
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – As a sophomore at Wheeling University in 2019-20, Manny Ansong had a breakout season on the basketball court.
He upped his game — averaging 14.4 points per contest — through hard work and assistance from his new head coach, Will Ryan.
When Ryan accepted the head coaching position the following year with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay men’s basketball team, Ansong was quick to follow his coach.
Because Ansong was ready to make the jump from Division II to Division I basketball, he said transferring was an easy decision.
“He helped me get better and work on things I struggle with,” Ansong said about Ryan. “He helped me slow down my game. Also, I wanted to see if I could compete with other Division I players.”
The 6-foot-4 junior forward is leading Green Bay in scoring at 12.3 points per game and has scored in double figures in 11 of his first 16 games.
Ansong put in 10.4 points per game last season, which was fourth-best on the team.
With the team’s top-three scorers, Amari Davis, Josh Jefferson and PJ Pipes, all transferring or graduating, that provided an opening for Ansong to become the No. 1 scoring option.
“I thought I would take on a bigger role,” Ansong said. “We brought Kamari (McGee) and Donovan Ivory in and a couple of other guys who can score the ball well. The pressure on me was lessened, so that’s good.”
Even with his expanded role on the offensive end, Ansong said he doesn’t feel more weight on his shoulders.
“Not really because I’m not someone who likes to force shots,” he said. “I flow into Coach Ryan’s offense and let the points come.”
Ansong has shown he can be an effective scorer at the Division I level.
In the first 16 games, he hit 55.6% of his shots from the field.
This season, he moved from being a smaller post player to getting out on the wing in Green Bay’s swing offense, giving him the ability to shoot from the perimeter or drive to the rim.
Ansong has struggled from 3-point range, hitting 30% of his shots.
He said he’s trying to get into a rhythm from the perimeter.
“It starts with getting in the gym, feeding off my teammates and building trust,” Ansong said. “They know my game, and it all works out.”
Ryan said Ansong is dedicating time in practice to improve his long-range shooting.
“He’s got a good-looking shot,” he said. “With him, it’s repetition and working on game-like shots. Some of it doesn’t come naturally to always be ‘shot-ready,’ as we call it. You have to remind him to, ‘Hey, always be ready to catch and do something with it, whether that’s shooting, passing or putting it on the floor and using your quickness to get to the rim.’”
McGee, the team’s freshman point guard, said he likes having Ansong out on the wing where he can create and give the offense a different dimension.
“That’s a big up for us,” he said. “Lots of teams may put slower guys on him, so he can beat them. He’s quick, long and athletic. Him out on the wing is even better. He can go to the post, but being out on the wing, that expands his game.”
Ryan calls Ansong’s athleticism “off the charts.”
Ansong said he’s tried to utilize that area in his game.
“I wish I had his jumping ability; I know that for sure,” McGee said. “I love playing with Manny. He’s a chill guy. He talks, but it’s quiet. He has a killer mentality. where he’s always in ‘go’ mode in games, and I love that about him.”
Green Bay has collected only four wins so far this season, so it’s been a rough start.
“It’s been frustrating losing because I know we’re a better team than what we’re showing,” Ansong said. “(We’re) looking to make a turnaround, so things can change for the better.”
Ansong said he wants to get better as a player and jumpstart his team the rest of the season.
“I want to get more comfortable on the wing and hopefully shoot my jumper more comfortably, so it can lead into next year,” he said. “I want to better help the team and have a big impact and help us win more games.”