Women’s college basketball will be alive and well this coming winter — right here in Osceola County.
Johnson University, a Christian school located on Bill Beck Boulevard across the street from Osceola County Stadium, will begin its second women’s season in 2019-20, and feature at least one piece of local talent.
St. Cloud’s Bailey Ansbaugh, a 5-7 shooting guard with deft touch from beyond the three-point line, signed to play with the Suns last week. But, it was just a matter of time.
She said she attended volleyball matches there in prior years with her family — her dad, Chad, is the Bulldogs’ head girls basketball coach, younger brother Braxton is another multi-sport St. Cloud High athlete and mom Steffanie is the daughter of legendary baseball coach Mike Fields — and knew staying in town was her best option.
“When I walk in the gym there it feels like home. I prayed that they’d start the program; I wanted to go there even without playing basketball,” Bailey Ansbaugh said. “I’ve already made friends there.”
She also said the school, which fields a National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) Division II sports program, also has the elementary education major program she’s looking for.
“I’ve known since very young that I’ve wanted to teach and coach,” she said.
Bailey’s mark on the court has come from shooting the deep ball. In her senior season she shot just over 33 percent (59-for-178) from beyond the arc. Those 59 makes would lead most teams in the area, but she was second on the squad this year behind Beka Benge, whose 106 makes set a school record. Still, Ansbaugh is among St. Cloud’s all-time best shooters from distance, girls or boys.
Coach Chad Ansbaugh said Bailey, who also has competed in cross country, track and tennis for the Bulldogs, will make big contributions off the court.
“Coaches call them ‘glue-kids.’ They’re behind-the-scenes leaders, organizers and problem solvers and every solid program has to have them, but there isn’t a statistic for it,” he said.
Suns’ Assistant Coach Andy Gines said on the program’s website, in a story about Ansbaugh’s signing, they he’s been recruiting Bailey since her junior year.
"Bailey has everything that we are looking for as a student-athlete here at Johnson University Florida,” he said. I'm so excited to have her join our family here."
Johnson University, which has fielded a men’s college program for years — it received a berth this past season to the Christian College National Invitational Tournament — could be a landing spot for players who don’t receive offers elsewhere. Naquana Gray, an Osceola High grad, played part of last season, when the Suns were 5-22, but all five wins came in South Region play.
Ansbaugh said she’s fine with the idea of being a ‘Pied Piper’ for local athletes she’s played with to come player with her and stock the Suns program.
“Until a few years ago I didn’t even know the school or program existed, and I wasn’t even thinking about playing in college since I found it,” she said.