The uncool plays: Jordyn Oliver’s impact on Vanderbilt’s hot start

The Journey of Jordyn Oliver and what she means to the Vanderbilt women’s basketball program.
Jordyn Oliver has made an immediate impact on Vanderbilt womens basketball team. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Jordyn Oliver has made an immediate impact on Vanderbilt women’s basketball team. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

When Jordyn Oliver officially committed to Vanderbilt as a graduate transfer on April 11, 2023, it was big news for the Vanderbilt community. As a former McDonald’s All-American who played two years at Baylor and one year at Duke, she was a significant addition for the Commodore women’s basketball team

Looking back eight months later, Oliver has been everything she was advertised to be and so much more.

Growing up in Prosper, Texas, Oliver was raised in an uber-athletic environment. All of her brothers played basketball and her uncle is LaTroy Hawkins, a former MLB player who played for 15 years. The family skills certainly were passed onto Oliver, who excelled in her four years at Prosper High School. She racked up over 2,000 career points and averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game in her senior year. 

Oliver also reflects back fondly on her golfing game.

“I really think that I should have played golf instead of basketball… Kidding! Kidding!” Oliver said. “But for real, I’ve always been pretty good at golf.”

Thankfully for basketball fans around the country, Oliver chose basketball. Ranked as the 12th best player nationally in her class by ESPNW, Oliver started her collegiate career at Baylor University.

As a freshman in the 2019-20 season, Oliver appeared in 23 games for the Big 12 champion Lady Bears and carried an impressive 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. She took another step forward in the 2020-21 season, appearing in 25 games with 3 starts and averaged a solid 4/3/2 slash line with another elite assist-to-turnover ratio. Her contributions helped the Lady Bears win yet another Big 12 championship. In the NCAA tournament, Oliver dropped 14 points on Jackson State and appeared in every game of their Elite Eight run. 

Shortly after the season, Oliver entered the transfer portal as a highly sought-after transfer. She committed to Duke University for her junior season.

After redshirting during the 2021-22 season due to injury, Oliver played a key role for the top-12 ranked Blue Devils in 2022-23, appearing in all 33 games with 7 starts. She averaged 3.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Oliver also exploded for 10 points and 4 rebounds in limited minutes in a blowout win against Iona in the first round of the NCAA tournament. After the Blue Devils bowed out of the tournament against six-seeded Colorado in the Round of 32, Oliver announced that she was entering the transfer portal again.

Once again, Oliver drew interest from a lot of teams around the country. However, her profile was different this time. Instead of bringing appeal as a talented but inexperienced underclassman, Oliver collected suitors for her experience and savviness (along with her obvious talent). 

Coming off of an injury-plagued 12-19 season, Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball Head Coach Shea Ralph knew that things had to change for this season. Along with getting key players back from injury, Ralph was adamant about bringing more experience to her squad. This made Oliver a natural fit for the Commodores, and she officially announced her commitment on Instagram shortly thereafter. Coach Ralph was ecstatic.

“She [Oliver] is bright and competitive and comes from a great family,” Ralph said. She’s a veteran player, an SEC athlete and incredibly versatile. J.O. [Oliver] will make an immediate impact in all aspects of our program — on and off the court.”

When asked about why she chose Vanderbilt, Oliver listed two primary reasons: Coach Ralph and the special vibe of the team. 

“It was a pretty simple choice for me.” Oliver recalled. “Coach Ralph was great, and the team seemed like something I wanted to be a part of.”

As one of the more senior players on the team, Oliver also commented on how much she loves this year’s team dynamic. 

“This team is absolutely special. On the court, we’re always locked in and trying to get better. People are always in here getting shots up, and the work ethic is amazing.” Oliver said. “On the court we’re serious, but in the locker room, we’re goofy. Absolutely goofy. We’re always cracking jokes and having a good time.” 

Oliver is certainly having a good time on the court, as her contributions are apparent to everyone. Her current averages are a staggering 6.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.1 turnovers, and a .600 field goal percentage. And yet, the stats don’t even tell the full story. 

When Coach Ralph was asked about what Oliver brings to the team on the court, her face lit up. 

“For one, she brings tons of experience to the team,” Ralph said. “She’s played at a high level for a very long time. And secondly, I think she’s a really great playmaker. We can put her everywhere on the floor. She knows the offense everywhere, she knows the defense everywhere and she makes plays for other people. Having that type of player is really big for our team.”

Oliver’s experience and basketball IQ set her apart. Oliver’s leadership is a strong suit of her game.

On offense, she was always the one calling for screens. She’s the one making sure people are always moving, and she’s not afraid to get on someone if they’re not. On defense, her role is arguably even more important. In coach Ralph’s high-press system, Oliver’s tenacious leadership and refusal to get beat sets the standard for her teammates to follow.

Finally, when asked about how she’d describe her play on the court, Oliver emphasized one word. 

“Uncool,” Oliver said. “I don’t really score that many points. I’m not really flashy. But I rebound. Hustle. I do all the uncool things to make sure the team moves.”

Throughout Vanderbilt’s scorching start, Oliver has brought experience, leadership and a willingness to make the unheralded plays. Her significance extends far beyond the stat sheet, flourishing in her role as one of Vanderbilt’s key players.

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About the Contributors
Adam Burns, Staff Writer
Adam Burns (‘27) is from Scottsdale, Ariz., and studies human and organizational development, business and data science in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him playing sports, spending time outdoors or exploring new places. He is also an extremely passionate Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Diamondbacks fan. You can reach him at [email protected].
Lexie Perez, Graphics Director
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Pete Morris
1 month ago

Keep up the hard work Jordan!! Don’t worry about the cool part keep doing the uncool part and you will still be notice

Jim Fitzpatrick
2 months ago

VU is so fortunate to have Shea Ralph coaching there. The character that she brings to the team in addition to her coaching knowledge is impressive. Given time she can take that program back to a national competitive level that VU women’s basketball has seen in past years. Just hope she stays long enough to get us back in the national picture.