NCAA Q&A: Olivia Applewhite, Dayton
By Preston Williams,
High school: Eleanor Roosevelt, 2009 graduate
Vitals: 6-0, Jr., F
Season: Averaging 5.1 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Flyers, who beat St. Bonaventure to win their first Atlantic 10 championship, snapping the Bonnies’ 18-game winning streak.
Fact: Dayton has played in the NCAA tournament in each of Applewhite’s three seasons there, the program’s only NCAA berths. And during her four years at Eleanor Roosevelt, the Raiders won the Maryland 4A title each season.
Opening matchup: Dayton (23-6) vs. Arkansas (23-8) at 4:05 p.m. Saturday in College Station, Texas. (Tournament bracket)
Best high school basketball memory: “Definitely when we won states my junior year [in 2008]. It was such a tight game against Arundel [a 52-50 win] and it actually went down to the last shot. We were down [four points with a minute left], so that was amazing. That’s my favorite game to ever be a part of. Arundel was a lot bigger than we were and they had just as much talent if not more than we did.” Applewhite finished with eight points and 14 rebounds in that game.
Favorite high school gym other than Eleanor Roosevelt’s: “Wise. I just liked the fact that it was newer, it was bigger. It was nicer than most of the other gyms we played in. And I don’t remember a lot of the other gyms. I’m getting old.”
Favorite high school victory: “My senior year against Arundel in the semifinals [a 47-43 win] was a big game. It was like a grind-it-out game. I remember I shot like one for maybe 15. It was really bad. A lot of us played so bad [falling behind by 16] but we still won. That was probably one of the hardest games I’ve ever played in. I just remember that Talen Watson [16 points] from Arundel kicked our butts, but we found a way.” Watson signed with the University of Massachusetts but now plays at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Best player you faced in high school: “I’d say Keyona Bryant from C.H. Flowers and Sheronne Vails from Arundel. Bryant was tough because....we were kind of the same player on the block, so that made her tough to guard. She had a lot of good moves, a lot of good counter moves. She reminded me of me a lot. Vails was tough because she was just so long and really mobile.” Vails plays for NCAA tournament qualifier Louisville. Bryant plays for Division II Saint Augustine’s (N.C.) and was named the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association player of the year.
Best piece of basketball advice that you got in high school: “Coach [Rod] Hairston said to let basketball take me as far as it can and to use basketball as a way of life. You learn so many lessons from basketball and just to use that to become a better person.”
High school loss that stung the most: “That would probably be my freshman year against Parkdale in the [third] game of the season. I played so well [team-high 18 points] and they won [63-61] and they celebrated on our court like they had just won a state championship. [The Raiders did not lose again that season]. And my junior year against Flowers [32-31], just because we hadn’t lost a game in the county.”
Piece of advice for high school players: “Just to dedicate so much time and energy to getting better because the next level is so different. And to also make sure in high school you take care of your academics and get a good grip on it because it will make life so much easier in college if you develop good habits — turn homework in on time, extra study. It always pays off in the end.”
What do you miss most about high school basketball: “I miss a lot of things. I really miss my teammates. I get to play two of them in the [Atlantic 10] with Ahjah Hall [at Duquesne] and Brooke Wilson [at George Washington], but I miss playing with the team that I had in high school because we were really a close-knit team. I miss the fact that I felt like in a way I was a leader and some people looked up to me. I feel like I set an example for them.”
Best thing about college basketball: “You’re put on more of a national scene. My high school team was in the Top 25 in the country, but for college basketball, I just think it’s a lot bigger. It’s a big deal. It makes you appreciate it that much more because you’re playing against the best competition. We played U-Conn. this year [a 78-38 loss] and my freshman year we played Tennessee [a 92-64 loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament].”
Worst thing about college basketball: “The transition from high school to college was the hardest because you go from being the best player on your team to starting right back at the bottom. I was prepared for the most part because people warned me and talked to me about it, but it still took me by surprise.”
When you hear the words March Madness, what immediately springs to mind: “Just the chance to win a national championship. We’re just trying to go out there and keep fighting and keep playing. We’re just really excited to be a part of the field of 64.”
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