SOUTH BEND — Maybe there’s magic in those goggles.
Ironically, the only bespectacled player in most games she’ll play is also the one who might possess the greatest vision when Olivia Miles takes the basketball court for Notre Dame.
That could come as soon as Sunday, too, when the Irish visit Syracuse for an 11 a.m. tip.
Coach Niele Ivey gave a “we’ll see” reply Friday afternoon when asked how much Miles would play — if at all — except to indicate that the much-hyped mid-season enrollee will not start.
Whenever Miles does get in, however, expect an ND nation that will still be working through major anticipation, even the coach.
“I can’t compare her to anybody, because I don’t think we’ve ever seen a point guard that can do the things that she can do, to be honest,” Ivey said. “She’s got a flash to her game, she’s great in transition, and she’s got vision that we’ve probably never seen in this program. It’s going to be exciting to kind of see her get on the floor and kind of get comfortable here.”
Miles, who was made available to the media by ND for the first time Friday — on her 18th birthday — is eager, too, and undaunted by the fact that she’s rarely been in competitive situations of any type since the coronavirus shuddered many of her activities last March.
“I’m not sure how much I’m going to play,” said Miles, who only began practicing with her new team Tuesday, “but I’m hoping I’m going to get good minutes.”
Miles exuded a calm, thoughtful and respectful demeanor Friday to accompany those glasses she always wears — in a more goggled version when she’s on the court.
It’s not about achieving some sort of distinct style points, either.
“I use them because I need them,” Miles said with a shrug.
“I’ve been wearing glasses since like first grade (and) I didn’t like the idea of contacts, so I just always got protective goggles with the prescription in them,” Miles said. “So I’ve just kind of been rocking with that.”
Rocking, and rolling, given that Miles arrives at Notre Dame as the nation’s No. 1 ranked point guard by Prospects Nation and No. 2 by ESPN in the high school class of 2021.
Speaking mostly in an even keel, her voice does begin to rise and race as she discusses the job of point guard.
“I love seeing others, making a connection with another person and seeing others put the ball in the hoop, and then getting that momentum and getting that happiness and excitement, and wanting to make another play,” Miles said. “I love attacking the rim and drawing someone and kicking it out for a 3. I feel like those are the types of plays that just get the team going. I love that about being a point guard. I love having control and leading the team and knowing I’m doing something to help us win.”
Miles averaged more assists than points — 7.5 to 5.2, along with 1.5 turnovers in 18.8 minutes — while helping the U.S. national team go 6-0 and win the gold medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championships in Chile.
“I look at myself as a pass-first point guard, but I’m not afraid to drive, I’m not afraid to score,” the 5-foot-10 Miles assured. “But that joy as a point guard passing it to a teammate and seeing them scoring is just something I can’t explain. It’s honestly so rewarding.”
So is having a stage for social reform. Miles has spoken out about reform during podcast appearances, and hopes landing at Notre Dame will further her efforts.
“Niele and I have been talking about this for a while,” Miles said, “about ways we can spread awareness, do anything we can to make people more aware of social injustice issues. Hopefully, in the next few weeks when I’m more comfortable around my team and I start to know more people, we can start working together to make a change and use all of our platforms to spread awareness.”
Hailing from Phillipsburg, N.J. and a graduate of Blair Academy, the player expected to eventually engineer the Irish offense is the daughter of a software engineer in dad Yakubu and a chemical engineer in mom Maria.
She says her parents’ main lessons to her have been about humility, self-respect, respect of others and using social media responsibly.
“I think she can impact the world,” Ivey said of Miles. “I think she’s very articulate, she’s really, really bright, a very intelligent young woman, very strong, very confident.”
While Miles began practicing Tuesday as the program’s first-ever mid-season enrollee, junior forward Danielle Cosgrove did so as the first re-enrollee after taking a leave of absence.
“She has looked great,” Ivey said of Cosgrove. “I’ve been so pleased and impressed with Danielle from the moment she’s stepped on campus, her workouts. … She’s in great shape, her shot looks awesome, she’s in great spirits, she just has a great energy about her. I just love seeing her on the court, her smile. She’s very comfortable and she’s so happy.”
Cosgrove took the leave of absence during the first semester to focus on her mental health.