TULSA — Tulsa Union guard Shawn Olden believed he was a Division I basketball player. Many of the people who saw him play believed it, too.
But it wasn’t until Thursday night that it finally came to be.
The 6-foot-3 Olden, a member of The Oklahoman’s Super 5, verbally committed to Pepperdine on Thursday night after an in-home visit from the coaching staff — quite a steal for the Waves.
Despite averaging 19.0 points per game and being the go-to guy for the Class 6A state champion Redskins, Olden flew under the recruiting radar virtually all season.
A week ago, he was prepared to go to a junior college.
“I had a lot of interest from Division II schools, especially after the season,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with going D-II. I went on some visits to D-II schools. The competition there is great. But I wanted to push myself to go for something higher.”
Olden was the MVP of the state tournament, and Union’s most consistent player from start to finish. Yet it was the Redskins’ big men that opposing coaches always seemed to be talking about.
They worried about how to contend with a pair of 6-foot-7 forwards, Jeff Mead and Carson Meier. And for all their worry, they rarely had an answer for Olden, who averaged 19.7 points at the state tournament.
The Redskins had been the preseason No. 1 in most polls around the state, but fell out of the top spot with an early January loss to Putnam City West. It wasn’t until nearly two months later, Olden says, that the team finally found its stride.
“We really didn’t start clicking until regionals,” he said. “Everybody started playing together. We talked about how we all had the same goal and sacrifices had to be made. Everybody started understanding their role and play it better at the end of the year.”
Union avenged the loss to PC West in the state title game, behind 20 points and nine rebounds from Olden, who was 12-of-16 at the foul line.
A natural slasher with a good outside shot, Olden knows that for his career to continue progressing, he’ll have to become a better point guard.
“I like to play the wing, so I can score. I feel like I’m a good scorer and shooter,” he said. “But if I really want to make it at D-I, or maybe beyond that, I have to become more stable at the point.
“A lot of coaches like it that I’m versatile, that I can play the one or the two guard, but if I really want to have a chance to make a career out of this, I definitely have to get better at point guard.”