Preseason practice only started Wednesday, but former Niskayuna High School star Olivia Owens already feels at home with her new women’s basketball squad at the University of Kentucky.
“We’re ready to get the season started,” Owens said Friday in a phone interview.
That’s especially true for Owens, who received positive news this week when she found out her waiver for immediate eligibility had been granted. A redshirt sophomore, the 6-foot-4 Owens transferred to Kentucky after spending her first two college seasons at Maryland. A top recruit in high school, Owens averaged 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.4 minutes per game as a freshman, then missed all of her true sophomore season as a medical redshirt after dealing with mononucleosis early in the 2019-20 campaign.
“I feel like I haven’t played basketball in forever,” Owens said.
Owens entered into the NCAA transfer portal in March, then announced her decision to play for Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell in June. Owens picked Kentucky over schools such as Duke, Mississippi State, Northwestern and Virginia.
“Olivia is a phenomenal person and outstanding basketball player. We are so happy for her that she will be able to compete this year with her teammates,” Mitchell said Thursday in a press release issued through the school’s athletic department. “She has worked hard since arriving on campus to be able to play this season and I know her teammates and all of us are overjoyed for her that she will get that opportunity.”
Kentucky finished 21-7 last season and ranked No. 18 in the coaches’ poll. Owens said Friday she was “overwhelmed with joy” to find out she could play right away this season, but that she didn’t let the prior uncertainty disrupt her training since she made it to Kentucky in late July.
Due to the pandemic, Owens said all of her classes are online. She is majoring in U.S. culture and business practices with a double minor in communications and criminology. It’s been an “adjustment” to practice and work out wearing a mask, but Owens said she has enjoyed the start to her tenure in Lexington, Kentucky
“I honestly love it,” Owens said. “My coaches and my teammates are super-supportive.”
Like the vast majority of Division I basketball programs, Kentucky has not released its schedule for the 2020-21 season, which is able to start Nov. 25 with games. Owens said her team will be ready for whenever it starts playing.
“It’s definitely been very competitive in practices,” Owens said. “We’re just trying to make each other better.”