Baylor commit Jordyn Oliver rises up refreshed recruiting rankings, but leave her nails out of it
When Jordyn Oliver went all-in on basketball, she had to make the usual sacrifices for a year-round training schedule: less free time with friends, fewer TV shows and lots of homework on the road.
But there was one place Oliver drew the line: her nails.
The 5-foot-10 guard at Prosper (Texas) High School was not willing to give up her regular trips to the nail salon -- not even during the season, when her nails' ruin is always a bad bounce or a blocked shot away.
"My dad sometimes says when I break my nails, I have my best games," Oliver said. "I just get so angry that I zone out and be like, 'Now I've got to drop 30.'"
Her high school coach, Trey Rachal, once thought she injured her finger during a playoff game. He was delighted to find out it was nothing too serious.
"I always notice them when they're white," Rachal said. "She likes those white, bright nails."
Pretty soon, Oliver's game will be under bright lights at Baylor. She committed to the Lady Bears as a freshman and has only taken her game to another level since, climbing the recruiting rankings year after year. Oliver moved up to No. 6 in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2019 class, which refreshed on Thursday.
With a knack for draining midrange shots and playing lockdown defense, Oliver averaged 20.2 points and 8.4 rebounds and shot 53.7 percent to lead Prosper to a 31-4 record last season as a junior. It marked the first time in school history that Prosper went undefeated against district teams. Prior to that, Oliver enjoyed a gold-medal summer with USA Basketball at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Argentina.
"When she wants to do something, it happens," her mom, Carmell Oliver, said. "When we were trying to get her to walk, and one day she just got up and started walking. We were like, 'Really?' She's very determined."
Her first hoop
Oliver had just finished kindergarten when her family moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Prosper, a Dallas suburb. One item they surely couldn't leave behind: her Fisher-Price basketball hoop. Before going to sleep, school or church, Oliver had to make a shot.
Soon enough, she began testing her dunking ability, nearly destroying the toy hoop and the wall with it. Her dad, Dwayne Oliver, upgraded the setup. But it was the same routine.
"That was her thing," Dwayne said. "She had to shoot on this goal anytime she walked past it. It was 10-20 times a day."
Her dream of playing beyond high school -- and that plastic hoop -- took hold when her cousin, Jared Cunningham, went No. 24 overall in the 2012 NBA draft after starring at Oregon State. While he was playing in Dallas as a rookie, she went to games, wore his jersey and got behind-the-scenes access.
Looking back, Oliver said, those experiences inspired her to think of basketball as a career -- not just a way to show out in front of her three older brothers.
Around the same time, Carmell encouraged her daughter to begin looking at colleges. Oliver's first offer, from TCU, came when she was in eighth grade. By spring of her freshman year, Oliver had visited Stanford, Louisville, TCU and Oklahoma State.
But Kim Mulkey's nearby Baylor program had effectively built an early lead. Oliver said Mulkey "never held back" during their early conversations.
"It was like, she was my coach already," Oliver said. "It felt like home before I was already there. I even called it home. For me to commit there, it was just perfect. I remember I woke up from a nap and committed."
Then Oliver sat back in awe as Mulkey and the Lady Bears reeled in the nation's No. 1 class for 2018, dubbed the Fierce Five.
Rachal said Oliver's relationship with Baylor in the two years since she committed has instilled a laser focus.
"It's given her that motivation to see what they do and what their team does," Rachal said. "It's kind of told her where she needs to be if she wants to play as a freshman here in about two years."
Branding and beyond
With a love for business and finance, Oliver dreams of one day joining Nike's EYBL marketing team to contribute her own ideas. She can't help but notice the inequalities -- think gear and amenities -- between boys' and girls' AAU basketball.
"I'd love to get into changing how we brand girls' basketball in general, from the way we look to the way we play," Oliver said. "And have us stand out -- not be so much underneath the boys."
She hopes that one day her ideas -- and efforts -- can help elevate her peers, much the same way her game is doing today.
"She's the type of kid that instantly makes your team better," Rachal said. "She does a lot of things different on the floor. She can score. She can pass. She can handle it.
"She just makes life easier for a high school basketball coach. She's the type of kid you love to coach. It's good to have a great kid who's also good at basketball. We've got the whole package."
But Oliver isn't one for too much reflection -- at least not now.
Her dad described her as an "old soul" in that regard. Her approach is always happy-go-lucky -- and never too much pressure.
"I know I'm where I should be, that I'm good enough to be where I am, but it's still crazy to me where I'm at today," Oliver said. "I don't think it will really set in until it's over and I sit back and see it. I'm really just living in the moment."