Olivia Olson will head to Washington, D.C., on Friday to train with USA Basketball's U16 girls team that will play in the FIBA Americas Championships in Guanajuato, Mexico, later this month.
There was a lot to do to get ready.
Packing, of course. She'll be away from her New Hope home for weeks. But also this: Making sure her business is in order.
Olson, 15, is already on track to be one of the best girls' basketball players in Minnesota. Having played varsity ball for Benilde-St. Margaret's since the eighth grade, the 6-1 Olson is already ranked ninth in the nation in the 2024 class by ESPN's HoopGurlz, a ranking that is likely to rise.
“I've talked to college coaches, people I trust, and they have said they think she can be the best player in college basketball at some point.”
She's athletic and long, a point guard who can see the floor, make the pass, hit both from three and mid-range and post up a smaller defender. One of only three 15-year-olds chosen for the USA team, Olson's profile will continue to ascend.
"She is very unique," said Nick Storm, co-director and founder of the Minnesota Fury AAU program, where Olson plays. "In terms of her size and length, combined with her pure athleticism? In terms of leaping ability, speed, change of direction? There aren't that many 6-1, really lengthy, athletic kids who can jump up and grab the rim, who can play point guard and shoot threes, mid-range. What she brings to the court is unreal."
Then add this: Work ethic.
For all the skill, Olson's willingness to work was mentioned quickly by Storm and Benilde-St. Margaret's coach Michael Swann. And by Sue Phillips, who will coach Team USA in Mexico, who listed Olson's attributes in this order: "Work ethic, skill set, competitive nature."
Which brings us back to that business. Ask her about her competitive nature, and here's what she'll say: "I want to win. I want to get better. That's what I love to do."
And that goes for Liv's Lawns, a lawn care business she has set up. "I love making money," she said simply. "So I'll do whatever."
This is a person who pays attention to detail. With her game, that means living in the gym. She's been there since she was little, working with her father, Chris, who stressed ballhandling skills from the start, even though Olivia was always tall for her age.
It should be noted that Chris, along with Olivia's brother Morgan, will be running Liv's Lawns, which has about a dozen regular clients, while she is on the road.
But back to basketball. Swann said he knew Olson was going to be something special when she scored 40 points as an eighth-grader in a game against a DeLaSalle team that would go on to reach the 2020 Class 3A girls' basketball tournament final before the event was shuttered by COVID-19.
"She's already like a player-coach," Swann said. "She always wants to get better. She's a team leader. She's been a captain since eighth grade."
Swann said Olson, who averaged 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals as a freshman, will surpass 1,000 points in the upcoming season. Already she's being courted by every blueblood college program, with 17 scholarship offers. Ever efficient, Olson keeps a book and a schedule of every contact she has with every college coach. "It's all about building relationships," she explained.
For all that, Olson said she was nervous when she went to Indianapolis earlier this year, one of 34 players invited to try out for the U16 national team.
Quickly, she learned she belonged. "To be able to make the team, know I can compete with the top players, it was pretty cool, I think," she said.
Comparisons to Paige
Olson describes herself as versatile, able to play anywhere from point guard to power forward on offense and defense. She will probably end up as a shooting guard in college, but she loves having the ball in her hands. "I love to play fast," she said. "I love to drive, to pass. I love finding my teammates open. I love playing in transition."
Storm is confident Olson will continue to climb the national rankings in her class. As far as the top, perhaps, by the end of her high school career.
That, of course, brings comparisons to former Hopkins star and current UConn player Paige Bueckers.
Storm shies away from that. Comparisons like that put a lot of pressure on a player. But he will say this:
Olson is taller, stronger and more capable of playing multiple positions than Bueckers was at the same age.
"[Olson] is very similar in terms of seeing the floor," Storm said. "I've talked to college coaches, people I trust, and they have said they think she can be the best player in college basketball at some point."
As an eighth-grader, Olson told Swann one goal she had was to dunk in a game before she finished her high school career. "I look at her now," Swann said, "and I think, 'This just might happen.'"
For now, with Liv's Lawns taken care of and ready to head to D.C. for training camp, Olson — excited to practice her fluent Spanish on the trip to Mexico — is only looking ahead a few weeks.
"I'm excited to play,'' she said. "And play with these people. I think it's a pretty stacked team, but everyone plays together. I think it will be a good experience."