Sometimes, the influence of one person can start the boulder that is personal growth rolling down the proverbial mountainside. Such was the case with Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball player AJ Range.
Range did not plan on attending KWU, and in fact, took his recruiting visit to Salina primarily due to its close proximity to his home in Junction City. When he got to the school, however, he encountered an old friend.
“Coming into my senior year, I saw one of my friends that I didn’t realize came here,” said Range. “Terell Gandy, a former teammate of mine, had transferred here and I really clicked with him as a mentor/mentee—a guy I could follow—because he’d been a role model for me in the past.”
“In high school, AJ was the kid that kept his head down and just worked,” Gandy offered. “When he got to KWU, I was always honest with him. I let him know what the coaches expected from him, where they saw him in the future, and that he had a job to do from day one.”
Gandy had transferred from Cowley College, and at the time, was a junior on the team that Range would eventually join. The presence of a former teammate, along with quality, truthful recruiting, was enough to sway Range into taking his talents to KWU.
KWU was Range’s first scholarship offer, and unlike many college athletes, he took it, signing with the program just 47 minutes from his hometown.
Range himself took on the mantle of leadership quickly. After a freshman campaign that saw him average just under six minutes per game, he took a huge step forward as a sophomore, averaging nine points per game and leading the team in rebounds, on the way to honorable mention all-KCAC honors. He was then named a team captain for the 2019-20 season.
“Before my sophomore year, I watched a lot of film on the players who got more playing time,” said Range. “A lot of it was confidence though, just being able to get out on the court and show what I could do and build my confidence that way.”
Range also stepped forward outside the classroom, as he took a leadership role on campus. Range became an RA and a student ambassador, as well as a key figure in multiple other clubs and organizations around campus. In short, he became the personification of The Power of AND.
“After his freshman year, AJ really did self-reflection on what he wanted out of his time at KWU,” said Gandy. “He set goals to achieve along the way, on and off the court, and got more involved with the school as a whole.”
“In high school, I knew I wasn’t that involved, but here at KWU, I knew it was important to build my resume for when I looked at jobs down the road,” Range stated. “I realized being an RA would help me develop my on-court leadership skills into practical off-court ones, and I saw being a student ambassador as a similar opportunity. That’s really a role that helps promote the school to students coming here for any number of reasons, whether it be basketball or otherwise.”
So how has the KWU community embraced Range, as he’s matured before its very eyes? As you might expect, quite well.
“My experience at KWU has helped me branch out and make connections that I know I couldn’t have made at a huge school,” offered the junior. “I’ve had people come up to me after a game and congratulate me, people I don’t even know, and I really take that to heart. That’s a family-type environment and a great environment to grow, and I really appreciate it.”
Range hopes to use those connections to venture into athletic training. He currently is a pre-athletic training major, and plans to consider personal training—perhaps in a health club—while working on a master’s degree in the future. Right now, however, he has turned into an asset not only to the basketball program, but to the school as a whole.
“AJ has turned into what we want as a Kansas Wesleyan Student. He has taken advantage of the endless opportunities that are provided here,” said Tony Stennett, basketball assistant coach and residence hall director. Stennett supervises Range in both of those roles. “AJ is a student-athlete who is a captain on the basketball team, an RA, a part of the multicultural student union club and a student ambassador. He has become a leader on the court, in the classroom and across campus. His growth from when he first arrived has been impressive, and the best part is that he has over a full year remaining.”
As he continues to grow, one has to wonder—will Range become what Gandy was to him, a mentor, leader and influencer of a future Coyote standout? If the pattern holds true, the answer is yes.