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HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK

After tackling new challenge, Meg Olbrys has become a star on the basketball court for Norwood

Norwood senior Meg Olbrys, a two-time All-Scholastic, has committed to play basketball at Villanova.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Before Meg Olbrys discovered basketball in earnest, she was an eager and enthusiastic kicker and defensive end in the youth football program in Norwood.

Years later, she proudly recalls earning the respect of the boys as she improved from fifth to seventh grade. She laughs as she references the images in the Olbrys household of a massive Natick player flattening her with ease as she unsuccessfully tries to tackle him.

“It gave me really tough skin compared to other people,” said Olbrys, now a star hooper for Norwood High who has committed to attend Villanova University. “Football really taught me that you have to deal with a lot. Stuff happens.”

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Olbrys, who was also a gymnast growing up and can still casually do a backflip and split, combines finesse and fortitude on the court. She’s earned Tri-Valley Large Most Valuable Player honors each of the last three seasons and has helped transform the Mustangs into a perennial contender.

As a junior, Olbrys averaged 15 points and 9.6 rebounds a game and guided Norwood to an 8-2 season. After injuring her knee right before the pandemic and needing osteochondritis dissecans intra-articular body surgery, Olbrys committed to Villanova in June.

Before she gets there, the fourth-ranked Mustangs (1-0) have to address some unfinished business. After earning the top seed for the Division 2 South tournament her sophomore season but losing in the sectional semifinals, no goal is too lofty with Olbrys at the epicenter.

“A couple years ago, she was mostly looking at Division 2 schools,” Norwood coach Amy Quinn said. “Within the past few years, her game has completely exploded.”

Meg Olbrys focused hard on improving her game after taking up basketball in sixth grade.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

After focusing on football and gymnastics, and dabbling in lacrosse, swimming, soccer, and softball as a kid, Olbrys realized that, unfortunately, football may not last forever. She chatted with her mother, Patty-Ann, and they decided trying basketball was worth a shot.

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With some experience from town ball to lean on, Olbrys tried out for an AAU team in sixth grade and was devastated when she found out she was cut and couldn’t play alongside her friends.

“I was a very sad little sixth-grader,” Olbrys said. “I was like, ‘I’m not letting that happen again.’”

Longtime Norwood teammate Sam Reen remembers Olbrys creating a mini court in her driveway with her father, Jimmy, spray-painting the lines themselves, and Olbrys spending hours and hours improving her skills. She made the AAU team the following year.

Around that time, as Olbrys attended clinics in Norwood, Quinn recalls Olbrys approaching her over and over again to show her and the other coaches what she could do. They already knew she had talent, and they found it amusing how much she cared about perfecting her craft at such a young age.

When her freshman year arrived, she had the daunting task of immediately embracing a major role on a program in need of a pick-me-up. Though she admits she was nervous, she exceeded expectations from the start.

“She’s that type of kid,” Quinn said. “If you challenge her, she’s going to do whatever she can to meet the challenge.”

Olbrys grew almost three inches in a year entering her sophomore season, then even more after that, and she’s currently 6 feet 1 inch. Much like Anthony Davis, she feels comfortable banging down low while also handling the ball. She said she watches Jayson Tatum frequently and tries to embody his mentality of gliding like a guard while also finishing in the paint.

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Despite the obvious talent, Reen made it clear Olbrys is an extremely caring teammate and the first to bring over ice cream, soup, or even a giant stuffed animal when Reen is sick.

“Whenever she scores a layup, she points to whoever gave her the assist,” Reen said. “It’s such a small thing, but it shows that she appreciates the hard work other people put in.”

Teammates say Meg Olbrys is always willing to lend a hand to others.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Olbrys had plenty of momentum following a dominant sophomore season, but the knee injury — which was essentially a piece of bone chipping off and needing to be screwed back in — set her back several months. The irony was that in one sense, the timing couldn’t have been better — she happened to tumble on the stairs right after her high school season and right before the pandemic shut the world down.

On the other hand, the limiting nature of the injury still took a significant toll on her mentally. Watching her sister walk up and down the stairs with ease was always a difficult reminder. Seeing specialists over Zoom and only having access to occasional physical therapy was as tricky as it sounds, but she stayed as patient as possible because she could see herself getting closer and closer to the destination.

When she officially committed to Villanova with guidance from the Bay State Jaguars AAU program — a moment she called “so surreal” — she knew all the sacrifices she made were well worth it. Initially, she “couldn’t even fathom” herself playing for Villanova, but now what once seemed like a long shot has become a reality. It’s also reminded her that no goal is too lofty.

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“I don’t back down from a lot of things,” Olbrys said. “I kind of go in with a full head of steam, and that helps me out with my game. I’m not going to back down at all.”

With Meg Olbrys leading the way, Norwood is ranked No. 4 in the Globe's Top 20..Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Courtside chatter

▪ Andover (1-0) made its presence felt early with last week’s 50-37 win over Central Catholic and moved up to No. 3 in this week’s Top 20. The statement win was bolstered by junior Anna Foley, who looks well past the right knee injury that forced her to miss part of last season.

“She was probably the best player on the floor, to be honest,” coach Alan Hibino said. “She just looked great. She played great. I thought she was a vocal leader.”

Foley already has eight Division 1 college offers, including schools such as UMass, Quinnipiac, and St. Joseph’s. After posting 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks against the Raiders, she’s clearly preparing to reach another level.

“She’s deserved every bit of the accolades and the recognition, and she’s really worked hard to get to the point where she is,” Hibino said.

▪ Dedham senior Avery O’Connor hit 1,000 career points in Friday’s 43-35 loss to Medway. A University of New Hampshire commit, O’Connor will join her father, Joe, on the school’s 1,000-point banner. Joe finished with 1,114 points at Dedham before graduating in 1989 and went on to become a 1,000-point scorer again at Bridgewater State.

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▪ With a crowd of fans to watch, Winthrop also honored 2021 graduate Maura Dorr on Tuesday after she crossed the 1,000-point barrier last season.

Games to watch

Thursday, No. 4 Norwood at No. 13 Walpole, 5:30 p.m. — Olbrys and the Mustangs have played just one game. Next up is unbeaten Walpole, a former Bay State Conference rival.

Monday, Bishop Fenwick Holiday Tournament (TBD) — The Crusaders, along with Rockland, Masconomet and Haverhill, make up the field for this four-team event.

Monday, Commonwealth Motors Classic at Central Catholic (TBD) — The return of holiday tournaments includes this one running through next Thursday and features Andover, Central Catholic, Westford, and Pentucket, among others.

Tuesday, Nantucket at Barnstable, 1 p.m. — Two of the undefeated Cape & Islands teams meet in a matinee.

Tuesday, Sue Rivard Holiday Tournament (at Oliver Ames) — Ranked teams in Oliver Ames and Walpole, along with Brockton and Medfield, are among the participants in this tournament.

Correspondent Ethan Fuller contributed to this story.


Trevor Hass can be reached at trevor.hass@globe.com.