From Air Balls To District Champs: A Five Year Hoops Journey

The Nagy family (from left): Zoltan, Olivia, Attila Sr., Attila Jr., Emma, and Mary Lou.   

One Lakewood High School senior has made an unlikely five-year transition from first-time basketball player to the top scorer on the Rangers’ District Championship team. Now she’s hoping to be part of another championship in her final high school season, and then move on to play college hoops.

When Olivia Nagy was in the sixth grade, she was a bright student that loved playing soccer. She came from a soccer family, as her dad is a former soccer player and coach, and each of her three siblings avid players. Her life changed one day when her uncle Bryan needed players for his daughter’s AAU basketball team. “They had a shortage of girls for one tournament so they asked me and my other cousin Sarah to play with them,” Olivia recalls. It was her first time playing organized basketball, and it did not go well. “The first game I had no idea how to play so I mostly just ran around and didn’t get the ball very much. I even air balled a free throw wide.”

Despite the rough debut, she stayed with the team for the rest of the season. She gradually liked the game more and more. The following year she decided to try out for the team at Harding Middle School. She made the roster, but was still learning. “In seventh grade I was scared to shoot the ball. I would be wide open under the basket and pass it out because I was scared that I would miss.” She continued to improve working with George Russ, who coached her in both eighth and ninth grade.

Her basketball skills blossomed when she arrived at Lakewood High School. In her sophomore year she was named MVP of the team. Junior year she was first team all-conference and the team’s leading scorer during their district championship run. Her season was highlighted by a 23 point performance in the district championship game against Medina. Nagy credits her teammates and coaches for improving her game. “My coaches at LHS have developed me into the player I am today,” she said. “My teammates also play a huge role in building my confidence and getting me pumped up for games.”   

Despite her busy basketball schedule, she’s upheld the family tradition by continuing to play soccer. She and her twin brother Attila Jr. are both starters for their respective LHS varsity soccer teams. Younger siblings Emma and Zoltan are also high school soccer players. Many hours of soccer training with her dad Attila Sr. gave Olivia the toughness and necessary footwork skills to also succeed on the basketball court. Her mother Mary Lou, who comes from a strong basketball family, has been there to provide support and encouragement through every step of the process.

Eric Flannery, her uncle and head basketball coach at St. Edward, had Olivia in one of his basketball camps when she was in seventh grade. “It has been a pleasure to watch her development over the years,” he says. “What I really enjoy is her demeanor on the court; she doesn't let things bother her, and she is relentless on going after the boards. I think she is a "steal" for most colleges out there.” 

Many colleges have expressed interest in Nagy, who carries a 4.39 GPA, to play on their basketball team. Among the schools she is considering are Yale, St. Bonaventure, Marist, Notre Dame College, Johns Hopkins, and Youngstown State. She hasn’t decided on a major, so she’d like a school with a wide range of programs. John Marshall Athletic Director Joe Gilbert, who was Olivia’s teacher back in sixth grade, is thrilled about her possibilities. “She’s a brilliant student, and an even better kid than she is a basketball player. She deserves all the good that comes to her.”


Mike Deneen

Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1 

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 5:08 PM, 08.01.2017