Former Northwood standout earning her spot at UNCW
This is different.
The last time Olivia Oakley was on a basketball team, she was getting 10 points and almost 9 rebounds every time she stepped on the court, back when she was a senior at Northwood High School in Pittsboro.
Oakley hasn't even gotten in a game at UNC Wilmington.
"As a walk-on, I feel like I have more to, kind of, prove, just because they've given me this opportunity," Oakley said. "I'm so blessed to have this opportunity, and I feel like I owe them my full effort the whole time."
Oakley, a 6-2 sophomore from Chapel Hill, said she wanted to try out for UNCW last season, but the Seahawks didn't need any players.
But Oakley knew she had some more ball in her, so she kept working on her game and even considered going to another school in order to join a basketball program.
Then Oakley heard that UNCW coach Adell Harris could use some more bodies. Oakley tried out for the Seahawks and made the team.
Oakley is not on scholarship, but she said Harris made it clear that she is a bona fide Seahawk.
"Our coach has made a big point of saying that she's not treating us any differently from the rest of the team, and I really appreciate that on her end," Oakley said.
Ball players certainly appreciate playing time. That's not happening for Oakley at the moment.
"Right now, I think she's a great locker-room kid, great to be around, works really hard to do what we're asking her to do," Harris said. "We need to build a championship locker room. I think she's a kid that's going to be eager to jump on board and follow our program's culture and standards. But, at the same time, she's [6-2], and so she obviously provides some size, gives us a player in practice that can compete inside defensively.
"I think this year she will be a kid that challenges us in an everyday, practice environment -- right now. Check back in two months, and I might be saying Olivia is starting for the Seahawks."
Oakley played four years of varsity basketball at Northwood, where she was an all-league performer in the 2-A Carolina 12 Conference.
"For her size, she is very athletic and can run the floor extremely well and has great hands," Northwood coach Cameron Vernon said.
At UNCW, Oakley is teammates with former Granville Central guard Kelva Atkins, who started four of the Seahawks first six games, averaging 12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Granville Central, in Stem, is in the Carolina 12.
Oakley will need to put in some work in order to earn floor time, and Vernon said that's what she's about nowadays.
"In high school, the question was always was she working as hard as she could. I think if you ask Olivia, she didn't work as hard as she could," Vernon said. "She took a year away from basketball last year, and I think something clicked in her mind how much she loved the game. I now see a stronger work ethic and the desire that I always felt she could give while in high school. She has worked very hard to earn this opportunity."