Chartiers Valley grad Nicole Olkosky set for expanded role at UPJ
Pitt-Johnstown women's basketball coach Mike Drahos said he was pleased with how then-freshman Nicole Olkosky performed last season. The Chartiers Valley graduate played in every game for the Mountain Cats, averaging 1.9 points and 2.1 rebounds.
That, Drahos said, was the appetizer. He said he believes the 6-foot-1 sophomore is ready to make a big leap this season.
“I think the sky is the limit for what she can do,” Drahos said. “It will be up to her as to what kind of work she wants to put into it, but she definitely has the skills to accomplish that.”
The key, Drahos said, is for Olkosky to become more aggressive. Not in the sense of playing with more purpose and toughness. She has plenty of that in her DNA from family games with older sisters Rebecca, who played at Slippery Rock, and Johnie, a senior at West Liberty, and younger brother Ray, a senior at Chartiers Valley.
“When we play each other, it's a blood bath,” Nicole said.
What Drahos wants is for Olkosky to look for her shot more. Like many freshmen, she struggled with confidence. She didn't want to do something that might hurt the team or let down her teammates.
But with a year of college experience and as part of a sophomore class that makes up the bulk of the Mountain Cats' roster, she said she is prepared to step up.
“Even now I can tell just in practice,” she said. “I can be more aggressive with the ball and on defense just getting after it.
“I worked on my midrange shot a lot. It was OK, but I didn't want to just be a post player. I want to make my defender come out and guard me.”
Added Drahos: “We think she's a good scorer, and we want to take advantage of that. She has a great jump shot for a kid her size. But she needs to be more aggressive around the basket and not settle for those jump shots.”
Olkosky also has been helped by extended time in the weight room. Almost always bigger and stronger than her high school opponents, she found out quickly that, at the college level, there were plenty of women as big — and bigger.
Added strength to guard players in the post will supplement quickness that allows her to match up with smaller players. Drahos said if a defensive switch puts her on a shooting guard or small forward, Olkosky is more than capable of keeping up.
Olkosky has goals for her sophomore season. She wants to get 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game. More than that, she wants UPJ to be a contender in the tough PSAC West.
The Mountain Cats haven't had a winning season in five years and were picked to finish eighth in the nine-team PSAC West in the preseason coaches' poll.
“We had a really young team last year,” Olkosky said. “With us younger girls having experience, we have all the pieces to have a really good team, and other teams are going to underestimate us.”
And Drahos said he believes Olkosky will play a big part in UPJ turning the corner.
“One thing we love about her is how competitive she is,” he said. “She absolutely hates to lose. We've talked at individual meetings, and she's going to go a long way to determining what kind of team we're going to be.”