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EHS vs Liberty_22

Ellensburg High School’s Olivia Anderson (23) dribbles down court on a fast break after a steal against Liberty-Issaquah High School during the WIAA Hardwood Classic in 2020 at Yakima Valley SunDome.

The first time Nars Martinez and Cartiea French-Toney saw Olivia Anderson, they were convinced.

The thin-framed, but dauntingly tall Anderson ran the floor with ease at 6-foot-2, used her size to deny anything at the rim, and impacted the game at all three levels. It was easy to see then what she could be.

That was two years ago, before Anderson even touched a high school court and before trainer-coaches Martinez and French-Toney got to work with her at FBC Northwest Alliance, a girls basketball travel ball club.

Now the 15-year-old is an even more daunting 6-foot-6, with legitimate shooting ability and advanced rim-protecting skills for her age.

“Her best basketball is still way ahead of her,” Martinez, Director of FBC Northwest Alliance, said. “She’s not even close to a finished product of what she can be someday. Her potential is limitless just due to the fact that she’s able to impact the game in so many ways at 15 years old.”

So far in her young basketball career, Anderson is getting plenty of attention. Over 30 universities have reached out and expressed interest in the high school sophomore, including Stanford, Arizona, Princeton, Yale and North Carolina.

And this is just the beginning.

“She’ll be playing at whatever college she wants to play at, at whatever level,” FBC Northwest Alliance U17 coach and trainer French-Toney said. “There’s no level that’s too high for her.”

She already has two scholarship offers, from Butler and Montana Tech, and just last week, Anderson was invited to compete with 30 of the nation’s best girls basketball players under the age of 16 at the 2021 USA Basketball Women’s U16 Team Trials this May.

She’ll compete with 30 girls across the United States for a spot on the U16 Women’s National Team, a select group of 12 that will play in Chile this summer in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.

Despite all the attention, and the lack of surprise from everyone around her, Anderson was still shocked when she heard the news.

“I was surprised but beyond thankful and grateful that I’m able to attend,” she said. “Being that there are only 30 girls, I’m incredibly honored to get to go try out. There’s so many talented players out there, I’m just really grateful to be seen as one of those players.”

ONLY THE BEGINNING

And again, this is only the beginning. Anderson still has three years of high school left, and despite not being able to legally drive by herself yet, is one of the most talked about prep hoopers in the country. While it’s her height that brings people in to watch, both of her coaches said it’s her defensive ability to makes her stand above the rest.

“It’s blocking shots, it’s rebounding, altering shots,” French-Toney said. “Even the ones she doesn’t block, she affects the game because of her presence.”

French-Toney likened Anderson to Stanford freshman Cameron Brink, who was an integral piece off the bench for the national champion Cardinal this year. But where the college freshman stands at 6-foot-4, Anderson is already two inches taller than the former national recruit.

Anderson herself said she loved playing in the lower block, where she can see the floor and send shots into the stands.

“She shows a little bit of grit when she blocks a shot, you can see her facial expression change a little bit,” French-Toney said.

Her high school coach, Jeff Whitney, who actually saw her play in seventh grade, also saw the offensive potential. Anderson grew up playing guard and on the perimeter, and has been developing skills in the low post but already has advanced perimeter skills for a player of her size.

“I was just watching from the stands, and I just went, ‘whoa,’” Whitney said. “Obviously you can see the size and the length, but I saw her running the floor, catching the ball in stride and laying it up and in.”

It’s only recently that Anderson has had to develop her low-post game on offense, and while the potential is there, she still has a lot to learn and even more room to grow.

REPRESENTING ELLENSBURG

Because she’ll have to arrive early to quarantine at the U.S. Team Trials, then get tested each and every day while trying out, Anderson will miss the last couple of games of Ellensburg’s shortened basketball season set to start next week. But while she has been playing for her travel ball team across the entire country and developing her skills, and she has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the horizon, Anderson is thrilled to suit up for the Bulldogs again this year.

“That was definitely the highlight of my freshman year,” she said. “Being able to play with all those amazing girls at state, the team aspect was really fun for me.”

For her high school coach, it’s easy to see why Anderson got this honor, and how proud the community of Ellensburg is behind her.

“Ellensburg is a very athletic town, they treat their athletes very well,” Whitney said. “This is something that I don’t think has happened, I’ve been here 25 years, I don’t remember the last kid that was invited to a trial. It’s exciting for her and her family and it’s great for our program down the road.

It’s an athletic community, I think we’re all just happy for her and wishing her the best of luck making that team.”

Anderson said she was incredibly grateful for all the opportunities she’s had already so early in her career, saying that it’s “beyond wild” and “crazy to think about” that so many colleges and Team USA would come calling so early. For those around her, it’s way less surprising.

“She’s really just a great kid, I don’t even know that she knows how good she can be yet,” Martinez said. “That’s kind of the thing with her. For her to be getting these types of college opportunities and national rankings and all of the above while she’s still just a baby out there.”

Looking forward to pushing herself with some of the top talent in the country this May, and connecting with future teammates and opponents, Anderson is just enjoying the entire process for now. Whether it’s high school ball, travel ball, Team USA, or just working on her inside game for hours in a gym, Anderson is just getting started.

“She’s one of the best players in the country in her class,” French-Toney said. “I’ve been around this and I’ve seen this, and I know what talent looks like and she’s one of the best in the country.”

Reach Sports Editor Alec Dietz at adietz@kvnews.com. Twitter: @AlecDietz

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