Zach Olsen is the type of high school kid who seems to have a smile painted on his face at all times. He’s also the type that will ask a stranger how he’s doing — and genuinely want to know the person’s well being. But the Pitman High boys basketball player will admit that he wasn’t in the most ideal situation last season.
He was a sophomore in a starting lineup of seniors.
“I wasn’t exactly best friends with them,” he said.
But that’s not to say he didn’t get along with them. In fact, the Pride were happy to have Olsen as one of the starting guards. And he was happy to be the underclassman. That statement is proven by the fact that the team had an exciting run during the 2009-10 season, highlighted by an upsetting win over hard-to-beat Merced High and a road playoff game at Jesuit High in Sacramento.
“I’d say definitely, by default, I’m a leader,” the now junior guard said. “I have the experience and I know what varsity is like. I can let them know. When times get hard, I can tell them how to work through it.”
Olsen’s first test as a leader comes Wednesday in the Modesto City Classic opener against Enochs High, though the Pride play in a scrimmage today against Johansen High and a home foundation game Monday at 7 p.m. against Modesto Christian.
Pitman coach Harvey Marable also sees Olsen as a leader.
“The biggest thing for him is to lead by example, which he does,” Marable added. “He’s the epitome of Pitman basketball because of how hard he works.”
Olsen is also a walking example of how young the Pride are this season, as he’s one of 12 juniors on a 15-man roster. Pitman will also have to work through a season without height and size after losing 6-foot-6 enforcers Dominic Romeo and Amarpreet Randhawa because of graduation last season.
But Marable is eager for this season, and he dismisses the fact that it’s a rebuilding year this time around. He recently joked that Pitman is “perpetually rebuilding,” even before the school opened some seven years ago and welcomed unproven talent.
For Olsen, he’s already proven himself as a threat on the court, though he can also excel in other sports. In three years of high school athletics, he’s played football, basketball and baseball at the junior varsity levels. As a sophomore, he competed for the varsity squads for the latter sports.
It was in basketball that he had the most surprising run, since he grew up playing Little League and excelled there. Last season, he was a solid guard who helped a Pitman basketball team with plenty of senior leadership.
“I thought he did an outstanding job for being a sophomore,” Marable said of Olsen, who averaged less than four points and three assists per game.
Though he admits that baseball is his first passion, one that could help land a college scholarship, Olsen worked tirelessly on his basketball skills during the offseason. Sometimes, he found himself perfecting his shooting touch while lying on his bed. Other times, he’d get some practice in the front yard on a basketball hoop, as he said, with an oval shape.
But, like being a sophomore in a starting lineup crowded with seniors, Olsen was happy to have the experience.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.