Rivals in the Suburban Council and friends away from the court, a pair of Capital Region girls’ basketball standouts committed Wednesday to team up at the next level.
Shenendehowa High School junior Meghan Huerter and Niskayuna High School junior Olivia Olsen both will play one more Section II season before heading to Providence College to play for head coach Jim Crowley after each made a verbal commitment Wednesday to compete for the Big East Conference school starting with the 2021-22 season.
Huerter and Olsen said they made their decisions independent of each other, but the AAU teammates with the City Rocks and close friends communicated throughout the recruiting process. Both, too, attended the same basketball camp at Providence in the summer between their freshman and sophomore years of high school.
“We’re really close outside of basketball, and we were getting recruited by the same schools and knew there was a possibility we could go to the same school,” Huerter said Wednesday in a phone interview. “We said early on that if it happens, it happens, but we were not going to make a decision based off of each other.”
In the end, though, the 17-year-old Huerter and the 16-year-old Olsen each had a similar top reason why Providence was the right choice.
“My gut feeling was always Providence,” Huerter said. “I always knew that was the place.”
“And I just had a gut feeling that Providence was the right place for me,” Olsen said.
A 5-foot-11 perimeter player, Huerter made her commitment Wednesday morning, formalizing her plan to become the next from her family to play college basketball. Her father Tom Huerter played four seasons at Siena College, oldest brother Thomas Huerter played three seasons at Siena before finishing his career at Catholic University, and older brother Kevin Huerter played two seasons at the University of Maryland before the Atlanta Hawks selected him in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft.
Olsen, a 6-foot-2 forward, committed to Providence in the afternoon. Her father, James Olsen, played at Schenectady High School and The College of Saint Rose.
Along with her younger sister Jillian Huerter, Meghan Huerter helped lead Shenendehowa to a Section II Class AA championship earlier this year. Prior to the season ending before the state quarterfinals were able to be played because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huerter averaged 17 points, four assists and three steals per game in a junior season that saw her earn a second-team all-state selection and first-team All-Gazette recognition.
Huerter made 63 3-pointers as a junior and displayed her strong shooting ability in the final minute of Shenendehowa’s 60-56 Section II championship win against Saratoga Springs. In that final victory, Huerter made 5 of 6 free throws in the game’s final 30 seconds to help the Plainsmen seal the victory and lock up her selection as the tournament’s MVP.
While she starred on the court with her play, Shenendehowa head coach Joe Murphy said earlier this year that Huerter’s leadership was just as important as her box-score contributions.
"It's not something you can work on, but her leadership this year was tremendous — talking to the girls, talking to me," Murphy said. "She was just tremendous as a leader and that's not something you can work on in a gym, but that's where I think she grew the most."
Meanwhile, Olivia Olsen led Niskayuna to an 18-3 season in which she averaged 22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, five blocks and three steals per game. Olsen was also a first-team All-Gazette selection, as well as a third-team all-state selection.
Olsen only started playing competitive basketball as an eighth-grader.
"The improvement she’s made from year to year has been unbelievable," Niskayuna head coach Sarah Neely said earlier this year. "She hasn’t reached her peak yet."
Huerter had interest from a number of colleges, but said the schools she considered the strongest besides Providence were the University at Albany and the University of Richmond. She made her official visit to the Rhode Island school last August.
“When I stepped on campus, that felt like home,” said Huerter, who lives in Halfmoon.
Providence, too, was the right fit for Olsen.
“I felt like it was the perfect place for me,” Olsen said. “It’s the right distance — not too far, not too close. My family can still come to most of my games. I can come home whenever I want.”
Olsen said she also gave consideration to Boston University, Drexel, Siena College, UAlbany and Villanova.
Providence is a rebuilding program in the Big East Conference. The program finished 19-16 during the 2018-19 season before finishing 13-19 last season, and Providence’s 2018-19 campaign was its first winning season since the 2009-10 season. Crowley has been the program’s coach since May 2016 after a long tenure as the head coach at St. Bonaventure.
“I’m really excited to help create something that people will remember,” Huerter said. “That’s what I want.”
The same goes for her senior year of high school. The Plainsmen, she said, have “unfinished business” after their 2019-20 season was cut short because of the pandemic.
“But, for my senior year, it’s about making it the best it can be,” Huerter said. “Going out there with my senior teammates and trying to create memories with them, and do as much as we can for the team, program and school.”
Creating special senior-year memories is on Olsen’s to-do list, too. In committing to Providence this week, Olsen got a solid start on that, as she became the latest area girls’ basketball star to commit to a college this week. Prior to Huerter and Olsen on Wednesday, Cambridge junior Lilly Phillips committed to UAlbany and Guilderland junior Valencia Fontenelle-Posson committed to Siena this week.
“It’s definitely nice to see all these people from Section II going to Division I schools,” Olsen said. “It really says something about our section. We’re one of the best around.”