TORONTO, ON – The Brock Badgers entered the holiday break at 7-0, sitting atop the western division in the OUA. One of the assets the Badgers have used quite heavily is forward Olivia Fiorucci, playing her first year with the Badgers squad though she has been at Brock for a year already.
In Hamilton, Olivia started at Cathedral High School, playing under the HWCDSB and OFSAA. With a mix of rep basketball at her elementary school and Blessed Sacrament, she found herself a spot on the Badgers squad going into the 2020 school year.
What went into her decision to become a Badger? “You could tell that Brock was a tight-knit team; you could tell on the court and how they played. Felt comfortable going to visit the school, and everyone was welcoming, including the girls. Going into a varsity sport is a big transition, and they helped make me more comfortable going into that transition,” Fiorucci said.
Being one of the unique athletes that got their first year of university at the same time as the pandemic school year, Olivia didn’t get quite the same introduction to university varsity athletics. That both helped and hurt her transition to being a university student-athlete, “The transition was a little bit of both. It made things easier because the schedule is heavier when there are games. It also made things harder because of the delay; chemistry hasn’t built as quickly as you haven’t gotten many chances to build the team.”
Olivia came into a team looking to hit the ground running and continue off the spectacular ending of the 2019-2020 season, which meant rookies had to pick up on things quickly. That became a test Olivia says motivated her coming in as a rookie without a season, “A big part of basketball is the motivation from the competition. The motivation wasn’t difficult because you come in as a first-year and notice the level of play that everyone is at, and that motivates you”.
She found motivation in trying to get herself to the level consistently of the athletes she went up against and to keep up with the program’s demands. Throughout the 2020 school year, she got to work on her own game, with some extra push from the veterans on the squad.
Brock went through a transition in personnel between the end of the 2019 and the 2021 season. They lost players from veterans to younger impact players, and leaders emerged that had been in slightly lesser leadership roles, specifically Mackenzie Robinson, Jenneke Pilling and Sam Kelton. They became the pillars for what the team stood for and the level of play they were trying to maintain. For someone like Olivia, who was coming in without the ability to play a game in her entire first year, they were essential to lean on and people Olivia learned a lot from. “They’ve been a big help, especially because we hadn’t played a regular-season game yet. They reminded us that competition is higher, and they pushed us to get to that level. Having them as role models is great because of how many players are playing their first regular-season games”.
If their start to the 2021 season is any indication, the Badgers have found that level of competition, and Olivia’s transition to the pace of a real game has been making strides as the weeks go on. Throughout the 2020 school year, Olivia has shined as someone that can get a quick basket in transition or a cut to the hoop. She hopes that is something she can continue, “I enjoy the fast pace, and that’s something that our coaches are fond of. I hope that’s something I can keep working on and get better at.”
Whether it’s the short baseline or mid-range shot from the post, Olivia finds her spots on the court where she can be effective. And along with that, her confidence in the system and her role in that system grows. Brock requires a lot of quick decision-making in their offence, and understanding movements and how to react to other players’ decisions is essential. Olivia’s focus on knowing her spots and knowing how to help the team on both sides of the ball has helped her transition.
“I’ve gotten used to it (decision making and reading the floor) to a certain extent. Especially with the new plays coming in, in High School, it’s not as organized and structured as the OUA, so moving with a purpose and knowing where the spots to fill are and having that instinct is something I have to work on”.
Olivia is adapting and growing as the season goes on, and for a rookie playing her first OUA games after a year of unknown, she has taken impressive strides and shows a lot of promise for the future of her OUA career. As the year goes on and she continues to learn as much as she can and take in as much knowledge as she can from the coaching staff and veterans around her, seeing her growth will be fascinating for Badger fans and, more broadly, basketball fans. She’s set herself towards gaining all the knowledge she can to be someday a veteran and leader of the team. With improvements both offensively and defensively, she is on track to get better and better when the Badgers get back on the court.