This time of year we are usually talking about the upcoming season. This the the time of year is usually when all the pre season previews come out. This is usually when we talk about the players who put real effort into their games during the off season. We talk about the kids who are on track to have great season or the start to a great career. Olivia Shaughnessy will be one of those kids we talk about in next year’s preview. That because this fall the 8th grader has given me a peek into the future. That future will include one of the best freshman in the state of New Jersey. The school whose uniform she eventually wears is going to be getting a mega star. One of the rare ones because Olivia Shaughnessy is that good.
I don’t usually go out of my way to watch 8th graders play in the fall. I know if a 8th grader is a baller and loves competition. I will see them in the January, SATURDAY MORNING CORE SKILLS PROGRAM. Every talented player in recent years has been in that program. It serves as a launching pad for so many kids. But one day recently I was watching some outdoor games at Hoop Group. When for a brief moment a player caught my eye. She was tough, quick, played hard and more importantly played both sides of the ball equally well. Something that is rare for young players. So I did something I rarely do. I found out when her next game with the NJ BELLES was being played. Then I sat on a court on the opposite side of the court pretending to watch another game. But it was she I their to watch. What I saw that day was the most complete and polished 8th grader or 2025 I have seen this year. Olivia Shaughnessy checks every box you want checked for a young player.
Olivia Shaughnessy’s dad Bill, I later found out is the asst. coach at Manasquan High school. It’s no surprise, she is highly skilled because you can count on one hand the number of coaches kids who are not skilled. I have watched her dad coach. He coaches with real passion and enthusiasm. He is a positive force on the sidelines. He treats his Belles kids with respect. By holding them to a standard of high expectations. He doesn’t treat his kids or daughter like babies…HE COACHES THEM UP! His 2025 Belles team has so much talent it’s obscene. It’s a team made up of a who’s who of future Shore Conference stars. It could be the reason why Oliva Shaughnessy is again the most complete 2025 I know these days.
You see there are better athletes, taller, stronger and quicker players than her. But none as in “ZERO” that have put all those things together like Olivia has done at such a early age. She is a player that defends as well as any kid I know. Her pride on defense is something I have not seen in 15 years for a kid her age. She wants to stop her opponent. Her competitor nature is simply off the charts. Please do not compare any 2025’s competitive nature with hers. Just don’t do it because I see them all and unlike you.. I KNOW! It’s that’s raw toughness that I love. She never gives up on a play and makes opponents beg for mercy with her conditioning and effort.
Olivia Shaughnessy is that rare young kid who plays with the same effectiveness regardless of who she is playing with or against, that’s because of her IQ and work ethic. Her ability to understand and play the game with purpose is wonderful to watch and a joy. She has figured out how to rely on her Instincts, Imagination, Creativity with a real understanding of the game. Now you tell me how many young kids have mastered that package at this age? I can tell you this, only one 8th grader I know right now …Olivia Shaughnessy.
When Oliva showed up at NBS, I knew by that time exactly who she was. A good friend of mine had reminded me her dad was a coach at Manasquan by that time. So I was happy to see her in the gym. But my style of coaching is not for everyone, so I did not know what to expect. In the weeks that Olivia has been attending NBS, we have said maybe 10 words at most to each other. She says. yes or no and then moves on. There is no phony ass kissing conversation. But when the ball goes up a different energy and personality comes out of this kid… you have to see it to understand it. It’s funny but as coaches, we seem to always gravitate to these type of kids. The kid who just shows up, works their ass off and then goes about their business. There focus is on getting better and competing with an edge. These are the kids that win you the wars.The games that matter most. These are the kids who reward you for your time and effort as coaches. These are the kids who develop and become different makers and what truly separates them everyone else. Olivia Shaughnessy is one of those kids.
I rarely put young kids on the main court at NBS. The kids on the main court are older, more confident, stronger that are mostly D1 players or stars of there high school team. Almost every kid wants to play on the main court. Some think it’s a birthright. If they don’t play on the main court, often they quit the program or their parents complain. I always wish those people good luck in their new found journey’s. But I know the end result for those kids because I have seen that movie way too often over the years. That movie ending hasn’t changed much over the years. When Olivia Shaughnessy showed up at NBS, she went to her court and kicked every living souls ass. She did it in the darkness of NBS. That’s because I spend little time off the main court at NBS. But I ALWAYS LOOK OVER and ALWAYS ASK THE COACHES .. who is playing well? In this case one name keep coming up, Olivia Shaughnessy. So I started watching her more and more. Then I went home and watched film of Olivia at NBS and folks the film don’t lie. It was then I figured it out. She was every bit as good as I thought she was.. how good you ask. Well when you ask me this question, what 2025 is most prepared for high school right now? That’s easy …Olivia Shaughnessy and don’t even try to argue with me. Because again I see them all.
These days at NBS Olivia Shaughnessy spends her days on the main court. The number of 8th graders over the years who have done this, you can count on your hands. It’s why I told a coach, this recently “by her junior year she will be the best two way guard in the shore”. I left out she can play all three guard positions without any drop off in performance. Her versatility is rare and a gift. It’s why these days I always match up with a D1 Senior or a D1 lock upperclassman because she can handle it. She doesn’t fold from the pressure, the physicality, the experience or reputation of her opponents. It’s that raw toughness I spoke about that allows this. There are no careless turnovers or lack of attention to details like so many other young players. It’s focus and a real desire to excel that separates her.
I have no idea where Olivia Shaughnessy will attend high school. I just know this, she is a three level scorer and a defensive nightmare for opponents. I know she will develop every year because of the mental toughness. I know she will be one of the most recruited D1 guards in the shore one day.. and don’t make me remind you or do I have to say it? Check my track record in such predictions. But more than anything Olivia Shaughnessy is going to win and win big, regardless of what uniform she wears… because she is that SPECIAL, and checks every box you could ask a young player to check…and that’s a fact!