The decision of moving to Colorado didn’t come lightly for Tommi Olson. She enjoyed her life as it was, she simply loved the idea of playing college basketball more.
She started playing basketball when she was 4 years old and started playing for club teams at 6. She later traveled to Colorado to play on a club team there, which she felt was necessary in order for her to attain her lofty goals. Her head coach, known for producing numerous NCAA Division I players, threw out the idea of Olson playing her high school years there. Following discussions with her family, Olson moved from her home in Worland to play basketball at Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
Olson started all four years at Highlands Ranch. As a freshman she set a program record for 3-pointers in a playoff game with eight. She continued to grow on the court while her memories of Wyoming returned. The picture of her family’s white-painted house complete with basketball hoop in the driveway came to mind when she passed along her phone number, still starting with the 307 area code.
Four years after moving, the opportunity to move back presented itself. It was too good to pass up.
“When it came time to make the decision of where to play for college I felt it was time to come home and represent Wyoming,” Olson said during UW’s media day.
Olson signed to become a Cowgirl and return to her home state as a member of the Wyoming women’s basketball team’s 2018 signing class. And while Laramie is still a multi-hours drive from where she grew up in Worland or her birthplace of Powell (home of her childhood favorite Powell Fair and Derby), she’s still at home in the brown and gold.
It wasn’t a one-school decision, though. Her college decision actually became difficult because of loyalty toward another school.
Olson went through what she described as a slump before her senior year. She started to doubt herself and if her decisions would ultimately pay off. Then the coaches at Regis University called. They brought Olson in for a visit.
“(That) gave me motivation to continue to play basketball, play my best,” she said. “So I felt really comfortable there and we had a good connection.”
Olson’s slump ended not long after that and her senior season emerged for the better. It also wasn’t long until the Cowgirls came calling. Olson came to Laramie for a visit and set her future in motion.
“Then I took a visit to Wyoming and I loved it,” she said. “I felt that it was right and I was comfortable here. It’s just an honor to be here.”
The true freshman has played in four games to this point, scoring two points in the blowout victory against Colorado-Colorado Springs on Nov. 13. She played 20 minutes, giving her the opportunity to showcase some of her skills.
“My favorite thing to do and what I’m best at is making passes,” she said. “That’s always been my thing. When I was younger, playing on my traveling basketball team, my mom was like, ‘Push the ball up the court,’ and over time that’s what I’ve been known best for.”
Olson finished that game with team-highs in assists (six) and steals (six). She also committed zero turnovers. The only other Cowgirls with as many or more assists and steals have played in all eight games.
She didn’t expect to play in every game coming into the season. Olson knew that there would be an opening in the starting lineup. She also knew that head coach Joe Legerski wanted the younger players to push the veterans in order to take the Cowgirls to the Mountain West championship that has eluded them the previous two seasons.
So while she’s been confined to the bench for the past few weeks, Olson’s content in her value as it stands.
“I think that as long as we’re winning, whatever we have to do to do that,” Olson said. “Whether that plays a role with me, I’ll do my best. If it doesn’t then I’ll continue to work hard and push people so we can win.”
She’s hoping to take this season to become a better athlete — mentally and physically. The veteran’s acceptance of her and the other freshmen was encouraging and an essential step forward for her.
Olson experienced ups and downs through her journey that placed her 450 miles from where she’d grown up. She knows that there will be bad times along with good. And after all of it, she’s happy to be home.
“It was home for me and it has always been a dream of mine to play for the Cowgirls,” she said. “It holds a special place in my heart.”