Jami Oliver Feature in AV Times

January 22nd, 2013

Former ADSS star making early impact with Mariners
Scott McKenzie
Alberni Valley Times


When last year's crop of freshmen at Vancouver Island University told Jami Oliver she wouldn't get much floor time in her first season playing women's basketball for the Mariners, apparently, they were wrong.

In a rarity for a freshman, Oliver, a two-time Totem champion in her time playing high school ball with the Alberni Armada, has already earned her way to becoming the first post player off the bench when her PACWEST basketball team is in action.

Initially, Oliver didn't expect the minutes she is getting as a Mariner.

"When I talked to freshmen from last year, they told me not to expect much playing time," she said.

"They said if we were up by like 50 points you might get playing time. But I'm actually getting quite a bit ... But it's not the 40 minutes I played every game in high school."

Oliver's journey to playing college basketball began when VIU women's basketball head coach Bill McWhinnie took a scouting trip to ADSS. Later, he offered her a spot on the team.

Oliver did talk to other schools, but being close to friends and family was vital in her decision to stay on the Island while still playing at highest level possible.

"I wanted to stay close to home, so VIU seemed like the best place," she said.

"The team was doing really well last year, so I kind of based my decision off of how the team was playing, too."

Fortunately, that hasn't changed. Through 16 games this season, the Mariners are sitting in third place in the PACWEST standings, six points behind the Capilano Blues.

However, Oliver said she found out how good her team was when they beat the Blues by 30 points, 73-43.

But for Oliver, coming in to university and making the transition to playing college basketball wasn't easy.

"It's more of a faster pace, that's for sure, and you're playing against bigger people than you were in high school," she said.

"One girl on my team is six-foot-six." She is also playing against opponents who are in their fourth and fifth years of college eligibility, so for a freshman, floor time isn't going to be handed out. She had to be ready, and she had to earn it, as there are seven players on the VIU roster with at least three years of experience, and only two freshmen.

Oliver credits her high school coach, Greg Freethy, for preparing her for the next level. She would even work out on her own with Freethy and Brian Laviollette at the high school to make sure she was ready for the next step of her basketball career - playing at VIU is a far cry from her dominant days at ADSS, when teammates could simply feed her the ball in the post, because as a 6'2" post player, it was easy in high school.

"I think my high school coach definitely prepared me well because he put us in competitive games against schools from Vancouver, and we played a lot of games last year, so I think he prepared me well." So while the future looks bright, she is living in the present.

Oliver is enrolled in the dental hygiene at VIU, and hopes to graduate within four years. When asked if she wanted to possibly move up to playing CIS basketball in the future, she said she likes where she is. "I love it here," she said. "I definitely want to stay at VIU because there is a good group here and I love my coach.

"He reminds me a lot of my high school coach so I get along really well with him. "I've definitely made a lot of new life long friends. It's really fun playing with the energy here. We definitely showed how well we can play last week when we beat [Capilano.]" Her personal goal is to, sometime in the near future, make the starting lineup.

The Mariners have eight games left in their season, with just two at home, before PACWEST provincial champions begin in Victoria on Feb. 28.

It will be a big tournament, but Oliver has played in big tournaments before, winning the only two Totem championships she played in as a student at ADSS. If the Mariners can upset Capilano and the rest of the field at provincials, they will move on to the Canadian Collegiate Athletics Association national championships in Turo, Nova Scotia in March.