Ibn Ali: Male Athlete of the Year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

By Ronnie Gallagher
Salisbury Post
This year’s Salisbury Post Male Athlete of the Year award goes to Salisbury’s Ibn Ali, but after further review, he should have shared it.
With his mother.
Sharon Davis has as much to do with this award as anyone. She’s the motivator who pushed Ali to make something of himself.
So he was running track at the age of eight. Junior Hornets basketball. Youth league football. He was a three-sport star at an early age and continued that trend through his senior season.
As Ali’s prep career comes to a close, he fulfilled his mother’s wishes and much more. This year alone he was:
– All-conference and all-county in football, basketball and track.
– Named to the North Carolina Shrine Bowl football team.
– Named Central Carolina Conference Athlete of the Year.
– Named Rowan County Athlete of the Year.
Ali should have gone straight home after receiving his all-county trophy and handed it over to his mother.
“My mom made me play all those sports,” Ali grinned. “She didn’t want me out on the streets.”
And there was another reason.
“She told me, ‘You’re going to do it because you live in my house.’ ”

It’s almost as if Joe Pinyan saw this coming four years ago. When Ali arrived on Salisbury’s campus as a freshman, Pinyan, the football coach and athletic director, sat him, and three of his ninth-grade teammates, down for a little chat.
“I told them they could accomplish great things,” Pinyan said. “Look at all the accolades Ibn’s received his senior year. It’s a tribute to all of his hard work.”
When this school year began, Pinyan put the pressure on Ali immediately. A star running back, Pinyan informed him he was going to be the quarterback.
“Changing to quarterback was hard for me,” Ali admitted. “I didn’t want to do it. We had a big discussion and I told (Pinyan) I’d do it because I was a senior and the leader of the team.”
The result was Salisbury’s fifth straight CCC title.
“He wants what’s best for the program,” Pinyan said. “He’s not in it for himself.”
Pinyan was an assistant in the Shrine Bowl and took Ali with him. Ali eventually signed with Western Carolina as a defensive back.
After getting the rust off, he helped Salisbury’s basketball team to a Christmas Classic title and a CCC tournament championship.
His track season was just as successful. He won the long jump and the triple jump at the conference meet.

Ali shakes his head when asked about his sterling career. He credits not only the coaches, but former Hornet stars like Scotty Robinson and Harry Howard for pumping him up in his first two years.
Now, everyone knows his name, whether they pronounce it correctly or not.
“I’m pretty satisfied,” Ali said. “I’ve never butted heads with anybody. There’s just love everywhere around the school and the city.”
The award doesn’t surprise Pinyan one bit.
“Success drives Ibn’s life,” he said.
Which means there’s only one thing left for Ali to say.
Thanks, Mom.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or rgallagher@salisburypost.com.