COLUMBIA — Anthony Ainslie is just your typical 15-year-old boy. Red, rosy cheeks, a mouth full of braces and a shyness that’s impossible to overlook when asked for an interview.
Get him discussing Cornhuskers women's basketball, though, and it’s a completely different story. The kid won’t stop talking.
What’s so special about this fan?
Ainslie might be the biggest women’s basketball fan in the nation. He certainly dresses the part. Known as B-Ball Head, he wears a foam orange basketball as a hat. And that’s just the start. Ainslie wears red and white striped denim overalls, a white T-shirt with a big, red “N” across the front and Nebraska sweatbands on both of his wrists. There’s more. Worn like a Superman cape, he ties a red and black Nebraska Cornhuskers flag around his neck. He wears oversized, white Mickey Mouse gloves on his hands and fluffy slippers that look like Nebraska basketball shoes on his feet.
“I really just want to get some enthusiasm going in the crowd and the team so they can get a victory,” Ainslie said.
Seated alone at the bottom of section 113, Ainslie lives Cornhuskers women's basketball. He doesn’t take a seat the entire game. He is constantly jumping up and down, flailing his arms around and dancing uncontrollably. He even went out Saturday morning and bought a Tiger tail so he could whip it around much like he hoped the Huskers would whip the Tigers.
“The whole Huskers team knows me,” Ainslie said. “Husker Nation knows me. I’m glad the word is starting to get out.”
Ainslie hasn’t missed a Nebraska home game in three years and has tried to make it to as many away games as possible. He even made the trip to Colorado earlier this season.
“I have been going to the basketball games for many years,” Ainslie said. “Over time, I started to get a little bored. So I thought I might as well create something new and it’s been going on ever since.”
Ainslie leads an impassioned Nebraska crowd in cheers. A large group left Lincoln by bus around 6:30 a.m. Saturday to head to Columbia. Almost like a mini sea of red, the fan section took up about three-fourths of Section 114, by far the most fans an opposing team as had at Mizzou Arena this season.
“We usually have a good turnout in traveling,” said Larry Pankoke, an avid Nebraska fan who held a sign that read “Huskers 22-0” in large, red letters. “But now this year since Nebraska’s 22-0 the fans are really supporting the team.”
Pankoke also came with a Tiger tail. His friends back in Lincoln tried in vain to get him to steal Truman the Tiger’s tail, but he didn’t want to end up in jail. Instead, he bought the tail with plans to cut it in half after the Nebraska victory.
“Nebraska’s sports fans are very dedicated,” Pankoke said, noting the followers of the football and women’s volleyball programs. “For women’s basketball, we’re getting 13,000 people. You got to understand, we’re very big supporters of our teams in Nebraska.”
When Ainslie shouts and waves his hands in the air, the Nebraska fans get behind him.
“He’s a great fan for women’s basketball,” Pankoke said. “Not only for Nebraska, but for the whole country.”
After Nebraska improved to 23-0 with its 82-78 victory over Missouri, Kelsey Griffin, who led the Cornhuskers with 28 points, talked about Ainslie.
“He’s an awesome fan of ours,” Griffin said. “He’s been there as long as I know. One of the first ones to get up and dance to Move it, Move it in the stands. He’s great. That just shows part of how great of fans we have, how lucky we are to have that many Nebraska fans show up.”