Like Jesus points out in the parable of the talents in the book of Matthew, God gives each of us special gifts but it is up to each individual to determine whether or not to use what has been given.
One of the gift’s given to Ashley Southern was the ability to play basketball at a high level. As a redshirt senior forward she is second in the A-Sun in both points (18.1) and rebounds (9.4) per game as she heads into Friday night’s Atlantic Sun Tournament game at Jacksonville at 6.
She has eight double-doubles, nine 20-point games, and one 20-rebound game this season.
This week she has been named to the A-Sun Academic All-Conference Team with a 3.62 grade point average. Southern has also been selected for the “So You Want to Be a Coach” program for 2016. She was one of 75 student-athletes from across the country chosen to participate.
Southern fully realizes the gift she has been given and knowing its origin helps her to remain humble both on and off of the court. But her tweets often deal with the subject of being a humble person.
“I think it is how I was raised,” Southern, who was a basketball standout in Tuscumbia, Alabama, said. “Everything you are given, God gave to you. You work hard but no one should be cocky in life. Everything in life can be taken away from you so you should be thankful for the talents God has given to you.”
Southern, 6-foot-1, transferred to Lipscomb from Tennessee-Chattanooga and sat out the 2012-2013 season due to the NCAA transfer rules.
She knew by the time she had reached the eighth grade that basketball was going to be an important part of life.
“When I started playing basketball in the fifth or sixth grade I wasn’t that good,” Southern said. “But in the eighth grade they let me play some with the varsity. That made me think I was better than I thought I was.
“When I was really little I like to play with balls that bounced. I played rec ball when I was young and in middle school I started playing AAU. I grew six inches in middle school. When I was younger I played more as a guard.”
Southern loves playing basketball, but she also loves how far the game has brought her in other areas of her life. She is finishing a Masters of Education in Technology Information.
“I have had a lot of opportunities because of basketball as far as places I have traveled and people I have met and in education,” Southern said. “It is a simple game. It is crazy what it can do for you.”
Making the decision to finish her career at Lipscomb was an easy one for Southern to make.
“I love Nashville,” Southern said. “Lipscomb is a Christian school and all of the people are so nice. I wanted to go to a place that was different.
“I like how personal all of the people are. It is not just, ‘hey, how are you?’ They are really concerned about you.”
Southern is known off the court for her often less-than-healthy eating habits, but made strides in improving that area of her life this season.
“I haven’t had a soft drink all season,” Southern said. “I still eat cookies. I love cookies.
“I also love Taco Bell and Cookout. I love Mexican food in general.”
Lipscomb coach Greg Brown agrees with Southern’s philosophy about gifts from God and the need to unwrap them and develop them.
“She is humble, sometimes to a fault,” Lipscomb coach Greg Brown said. “I think humility is a term we don’t know enough about. Sometimes we think humility means if I have a talent or gift I can’t talk about it or share it. And I think that approach is the opposite of humility.
“One of the things we talk about as a team is finding your unique gift and developing it and giving it away. I think God bless everybody with a unique gift.”
Brown points out that Southern has a lot of concern for her teammates and how her teammates perceive her.
“Sometimes as a leader you have to step up and say things that maybe somebody doesn’t want to hear,” Brown said. “That is part of humility. I think humility is thinking of yourself less and putting the interest of others first.
“That has been part of Ashley’s growth. She has stepped up and done things outside of her comfort zone and addressed her teammates. She is a team and others first type of kid. She likes to be behind the scenes. But she has really stepped out this season.”
Southern has been a leading force for the Lady Bisons around the basket as a scorer and rebounder.
“It is difficult to guard Ashley one-on-one,” Brown said. “By being a post player that teams have to deal with it makes us a better shooting team.
“The team works to get her the ball. They know they are not throwing the ball into a black hole when they pass it to her. If she is double-teamed she takes pride in being able to kick the ball back out.”
Southern relies less on her height and more on her knowledge of the game for her rebounding ability.
“She has a nose for the ball,” Brown said. “She has a natural ability to go get the ball that is better than almost any player I have been around at either Tennessee or UCF.”
Southern also points to her knowledge of the game, especially as to how her teammates shoot, as one of the reasons she excels as a rebounder.
“I love to watch basketball and it helps you learn a lot about the game,” Southern said. “I love Golden State and I love the San Antonio Spurs too. The Spurs play well as a team. Golden State is a great shooting team and fun to watch.”
Southern often has been called upon to carry the team on her shoulders, but she has not felt any additional pressure as a senior.
“I have actually been more relaxed,” Southern said. “I know I need to score for us to be successful. If I am in the paint I know I am supposed to shoot the ball.
“Part of it is being a senior. You are more comfortable. You know what you are supposed to do.”