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After stretch of tough luck, Quincy Olivari’s shots are falling

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Daniel Schrager     1/31/23 10:36pm

Quincy Olivari got hit by a car once. Two summers ago, Rice’s now-junior guard was biking in Hawaii when a driver ran a stop sign and sent him flying onto the pavement. But according to Olivari, while he couldn’t dodge the car, he did dodge a proverbial bullet.

“I destroyed their windshield and their hood,” Olivari said. “And I had no helmet on. And by the grace of God, all I walked away with was having to get 15 stitches in my left shoulder. Like no internal bleeding, no broken bones, nothing with my muscles, CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, all that was negative. I just had to get stitches.”

Olivari’s summer-from-hell continued. Weeks later, Olivari got sick and lost 20 pounds over the course of his recovery. Coming off of a breakout season that saw him up his scoring average from 6.0 to 16.5, Olivari had been hoping to put that summer behind him. But right before the 2021 season, the Atlanta native suffered yet another setback.

“I sprained my wrist in our exhibition game against St. Edward’s [University],” Olivari said. “It was swollen. I tried to keep playing through it up until I sat out for a week and then I came back.”

Playing through injury, Olivari started the season slowly. Through 16 games, the normally-reliable shooter was scoring fewer than nine points per game, at a 36.6% clip. But towards the middle of conference play, he began to find his old form, and strung together three straight double-doubles. Closing in on his fourth in a game against the University of Texas at El Paso, Olivari took a hard foul while driving to the basket and broke his wrist, ending his season.

But while he struggled to cope with the injury at first, Olivari said it ultimately changed the way he approached the game, allowing him to better understand the amount of effort required to play at a high level consistently while also giving him a chance to develop his left-handed dribbling and shooting skills. 

“Initially, maybe within the first week, I did think of it as a setback,” Olivari said. “But after a while I started to see [it as] ‘what could this teach me and what was God trying to show me during this time?’”

Olivari has since put his run of bad luck behind him. This season, he leads the Owls, and all of Conference USA, with 19.5 points per game on a career-high 43.6% shooting percentage. He has helped lead the Owls to a 15-6 record, and third place in the conference. 

Now the face of Rice’s program, Olivari, a self-described outgoing jokester and criminal-justice buff, said he would have never ended up at South Main had another school’s coach simply picked up the phone.

“I was about to commit to Charleston Southern [University] and that fell through,” Olivari said. “The coaching staff actually just stopped picking up my phone calls. I was calling to commit, and nobody picked up the phone.”

Even when he did eventually commit to Rice from Westlake High School in Atlanta, Olivari struggled to adjust to the defensive demands of college basketball as well as the opponent-specific preparation required before each game. While he initially had hopes of becoming an impact player the second he set foot on campus, Olivari said he quickly realized that wasn’t realistic and began to question whether he wanted to keep playing.

“It was a lot of times where I would call home and call both of my parents,” Olivari said. “I’d be crying and saying, ‘I don’t like it. I don’t want to play basketball anymore. It doesn’t make sense how everything’s happening.’ Both my parents were just telling me to just stay with it.”

Olivari stayed the course, and now has his sights set on a professional career. If he’s able to make it, Olivari said he’ll be able to point back to last season’s injury as   the moment that fueled his rise.

“That was like a turning point in my life, as a person and as a basketball player,” Olivari said. “I just came out of that a different person.”

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