Olivia Antilla graduated from Florida A&M University (FAMU) last month.
She also competed a basketball career with the Division I Lady Rattlers, a feat some thought she wasn’t capable of during the 6’0” forward’s senior year at Osseo High School four years ago.
“I wanted to play Division I,” she said. “I had plenty of family support, but there were some doubters.”
If there was reason for doubt, it wasn’t evident during her prep career.
During her first varsity season, Antilla came off the bench as an eighth-grader at Benilde-St. Margaret’s (BSM) during the 2007-08 season. By the 2008-09 campaign she was starting as a freshman.
She helped the Red Knights capture the 2010 Class 3A state tournament her sophomore year. As a junior, she led them to a third-place finish in 2011 averaging 14 points per game.
Following her junior year, the celebrated player decided it was time for a change, transferring to Osseo, a Class 4A school, for the 2011-12 season, her senior year.
“I wanted to play in Class 4A and I lived in Osseo,” she said. “For me it was the right move. It just made sense.”
The switch proved beneficial for Antilla as well as her new teammates. She averaged 18 points a game while leading the Orioles to the Class 4A state finals, where they lost to Hopkins.
Her outstanding senior season resulted in Division I inquiries, but she became disillusioned by the process. “I really became frustrated with the recruiting process,” she remembered. “I heard from schools, but I couldn’t tell how much interest they had.”
Her frustrations led to an unusual path to Division I basketball.
Antilla signed with Division II South Dakota School of Mines, averaging 14 points in 14 games before transferring to Anoka Ramsey Community College after the first semester of the 2012-13 season. During the 2013-14 season at Anoka Ramsey she earned NJCAA All-American status while averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Following her sophomore year, a family connection led her to FAMU, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Tallahassee.
“My uncle sent them [FAMU] a highlight tape, and they liked it,” she said while adding another incentive for attending the school: “I have family members that attended FAMU.”
Antilla led the Lady Rattlers in scoring (14 points a game), earning all Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors last spring and earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in agribusiness and management.
“I’m glad I went to FAMU,” she said. “I wanted a different experience. I’m glad I attended an HBCU.”
Antilla currently works at New Horizon Academy and will be an assistant coach this winter at Irondale High School.
She wants time to figure out her next move, but her aspirations are crystal clear. “I want to work with young children,” she said. “I want to inspire them.”
Based on her story and accomplishments, she already has.
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.