It was no secret that the Western Oklahoma State College Lady Pioneers basketball team was missing size on the hardwood last season when they battled their way to their highest win total in several years and Coach Eddie Broughton knew that something had to change if his team was going to compete with other teams in the region.
Though the team retained its leading rebounder from last season in Shaelee Brown, the possibility of bringing in other athletes with as much size as Brown appealed to Broughton and so he set out to do just that.
With six-foot forward Paige Delsigne and at least five other players at 5 feet 10 inches tall or taller, Broughton has succeeded in adding size to a team that struggled without it for much of last season.
Olivia Armstrong is one of the newest and tallest additions to the team and she is already looking forward to dominating opposing teams on the court by playing the game she feels she was born to play and playing it the only way she knows how.
“My parents influenced me to play basketball. In my younger years, they enrolled me in dance classes and ballet and it was fun but they wanted me to branch out and do other things so I picked up sports and basketball stood out from the rest,” Armstrong said. “Why I chose basketball instead of any other sport is really simple. I feel like I belong on the court and I need to be there. I feel like I’m invincible when I play and it’s really a blessing in life.”
“The game of basketball means so much to me. It has opened up doors for me in my life including continuing my career and education at Western,” she added. “At times it is rough being away from home in a whole new area, but I have faith in my coach and my team this coming season.”
Playing basketball at the collegiate level and doing so while being away from home for the first time in her life takes a certain level of confidence and luckily, that is something Armstrong has in abundance.
Whether she is on the court or in the classroom, Armstrong has always lived her life the best way possible. She knew that doing so was essential if she were to have any hope of continuing her basketball career beyond high school.
Now that time has arrived for Armstrong and she is excited about the opportunity.
“It is both scary and exciting to play basketball at the collegiate level. I got a taste of it with some talented girls wanting to also play at the collegiate level when I played AAU basketball the summer before my senior year in high school. It really opened my eyes to how serious the college level is,” Armstrong said. “The only thing I’m not used to is the excessive working out. We never did that at my high school so this is a big change for me. Everyone is competing against everyone and it can be very nerve wracking but with my great support system, I know I will do great.”
In high school, Armstrong was an ideal student in the classroom and an exceptionally talented player on the court for Guymon.
While at Guymon, Armstrong improved considerably each year she played. During her sophomore year, she averaged 6.2 points per game and during her junior year, she increased that total to 9.3 points per game. As a senior, she averaged approximately 11 points per game.
Aside from her point totals, she also increased her field goal and free throw percentages each season and finished her career averaging roughly seven rebounds per game.
She caught the eye of Broughton because she is a well-rounded player who can do whatever is asked of her. She never backs down from a challenge and is constantly pushing herself to become better every single game.
It was her hunger to be the best that appealed to Broughton and it was seeing the possibilities with Broughton as her coach that appealed to Armstrong.
“Coach B’s determination is what I like. His number one priority for us right now is to be in shape because the problem with last year is they would start weak but finish strong and he is determined to not let that be an issue this year,” Armstrong said. “I am very confident with myself and my game but there is always room for improvement. In high school, I was the big and tall girl on the team but at the collegiate level, there is always going to be someone bigger, stronger, and faster than me. I definitely need to work on my stamina and post game and I also need to enhance my ball handling skills. Not that I’m going to be playing guard, but you never know.”
Armstrong’s “whatever it takes” mentality is something else that appealed to Broughton. At the end of the day, she cares only about what is best for the team and she will stop at nothing to make sure that she has put her all into every game.
She has noticed that about her teammates at well and feels it is one of the reasons she has been able to bond with them so quickly.
“We are becoming really close as a team and family. At first, everyone was kind of distant towards each other but as we work together in practice and encourage each other, we are starting to see results and soon we will be showing some success,” Armstrong said. “We have a lot of heart and talent on the team this year. I expect us to have a better record than last year and I feel like if everyone does their job and works hard, we will be unstoppable.”
What Armstrong most looks forward to at Western is playing basketball with others who are just as talented as she is because it means she can relax and play her brand of basketball more easily.
It is a much different feeling than what she was used to in high school.
“I strive for team effort. I believe you can’t win without team effort because like the saying goes, ‘there is no I in team’,” Armstrong said. “Back home, I had to be the rock of the team and it was very difficult because everyone relied on me to save the game, but one player cannot do it all.”
Armstrong will no longer have to do it all as she joins a roster of talented athletes in what looks to be the Lady Pioneers strongest roster in many years.
There are likely to be bumps along the way but she knows with the support system she has in place, everything is going to be alright.
“My support system includes my parents, family, and friends back home,” Armstrong said. “They all drive me to enhance myself as a person and a player.”
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.