Adam Olsen of Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas faced Vancouver’s St. Patrick’s Celtics in the 2022 B.C. Triple-A championship final last March at the Langley Events Centre. (Photo by Paul Yates property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2022. All Rights Reserved)
Feature High School Boys Basketball University Men's Basketball

A phenom for the future, UBC Thunderbirds basketball spreads its wingspan and welcomes Elgin Park’s 6-foot-7 guard/wing Adam Olsen to War Memorial Gym for 2023-24 season!

VANCOUVER — Adam Olsen is all business when it comes to the level of compete he will bring to the UBC Thunderbirds basketball team next season.

In fact if there was a metric capable of measuring just such an intangible among B.C.’s graduating high school Class of 2023, the 6-foot-7 guard/wing Olsen might well sit at the top of the list.

That much was clear Tuesday afternoon after UBC head coach Kevin Hanson announced Olsen as a marquee piece of the program’s future beginning in the 2023-24 season.

“From the moment I met him I just fell in love with his game and his personality,” said Hanson of Olsen, who over the first two months of a prodigious senior high school season has posted averages of 30 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. “He’s a quiet assassin.. a super nice, soft-spoken player but with a competitiveness that just burns in him.

“We love his height and his length at 6-7, and he is a dead-eye three-point shooter who is going to give us exactly what we have been looking for… he is going to help expand the floor for us.”

With Olsen signed and sealed for next season, the ‘Birds (7-5) get back to the business of looking to extend a three-game conference win streak when the Regina Cougars (5-7) come calling in Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (6 p.m.) contests which mark the first home action for the ‘Birds in 2023. The UBC women’s team (9-3) also plays host to Regina (10-2) with Friday (5 p.m.,) and Saturday (4 p.m.) tips at War Memorial. Friday’s action tips off the first of seven straight home games for the blue-and-gold. 

Adam Olsen of Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas carries a forward’s wingspan in the body of a 6-foot-7 wing/guard. (Photo by Paul Yates property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2022. All Rights Reserved)

What’s most special about Olsen?

The majority of Canada West recruits with his specs begin their freshman seasons with frontcourt minutes, getting their feet under them in the paint before refining skill sets which allow them to play, over the course of their careers, further away from the basket.

Olsen is the exact opposite.

“Most people would look at him as a 3-4 (small/power forward) but we’re going to look at him as a three,” says Hanson, who adds that Olsen’s initial descriptions at the university level will centre more around his perimetre abilities. 

“He is someone who can shoot from the NBA three with great consistency, and with that height he can shoot over people,” adds Hanson. “There’s an injury on his high school team right now so he is even playing some point guard. But he can finish in traffic and he can dunk on people. He is going to be a special player with that size and his ability to move out there. There’s not many with that size that have that skill set.”

UBC head coach Kevin Hanson called new recruit Adam Olsen of Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas ‘a dead-eye three-point shooter.’ (Photo by Paul Yates property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2022. All Rights Reserved)

Yet maybe the best part of all is that Olsen has put in the work to develop his game under the tutelage of his dad Mark Olsen, himself a former UBC player (1977-78), and Elgin Park head coach Kirk Homenick, a 7-footer who played for three three seasons with the USC Trojans.

It has all helped shape Olsen, who was also a middle blocker on Elgin Park volleyball teams which finished second and third at the B.C. Triple A championships the past two seasons, into a player who has earned the right to speak with assurance about his game.

“I am confident coming into next year that I will be able to find my spots,” he told Varsity Letters about the potential to smoothly carry his high school shooting success to the U SPORTS level as a freshman. “There’s not many wing players that have the length that I have, and so I am blessed in that way. I will be able to find shots even with a hand in my face. I am working to do that every day.”

The multi-sport background was, to both Olsen and Hanson, a true bonus in making basketball his specialty moving forward.

“I think there is a lot of carryover in terms of verticality and timing, going up for rebounds and developing your reaction time,” Hanson said of the traits Olsen was able to fine tune as a middle blocker while playing against the best volleyball talent in the province. “There is an art to playing team volleyball just like there is an art to playing team basketball.”

New UBC Thunderbirds’ recruit Adam Olsen was thrilled to sign on the dotted line Tuesday ahead of his freshman 2023-24 season on the Point Grey campus. Joining him were (clockwise from left) mom Evon, UBC head coach Kevin Hanson and dad Mark. (Photo by Richard Lam property of UBC athletics 2022. All Rights Reserved)

And those bloodlines?

Mark Olsen, a Sir Winston Churchill graduate who played under a pair of coaching legends in both Dunc McCallum at Langara, and the late Dr. Peter Mullins at UBC, has gifted the best of his game and his approach to his son.

Ask Adam Olsen about it, and he’ll tell you.

“He was a four with a mean mid-range jump shot and that was before the three-point line,” the son says.

When asked if he is in fact a modern-day on-court version of his father, Adam adds: “He’s a 6-foot-4 me, that’s what he was.”

And on choosing UBC as his university destination?

“Well, my dad played here,” he began. “And there’s other great people I have been working with like (current UBC assistant coach) Jadon Cohee. And also Doug Plumb, who I train with.. he went here. And of course there is a long legacy of great players, guys like Conor Morgan… and I want to follow in their footsteps and do the same kinds of things.”

Sounds like a kid who means business.

Adam Olsen of Surrey’s Elgin Park Orcas brings size and a guard’s skillset but his ceiling to develop into a front court force remains high. (Photo by Paul Yates property of Vancouver Sports Pictures 2022. All Rights Reserved)

In fact if you ask Olsen about the heartbreak of Elgin Park losing a close game in last season’s B.C. Triple-A championship final in front of a packed house at the Langley Events Centre to St. Patrick’s, or about his Orcas re-grouping for the new season with barely a practice under their belts after the B.C. volleyball finals and thus promptly losing all four of their games at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational last December, his answer is the same.

Said Olsen of the latter: “We are a completely different team from that tournament. We went 0-4, but we have gotten so much better. If we could replay that tournament, we’d be 4-0 right now.”

It brings you back to what Hanson said, “…that there is a competitiveness that just burns in him.”

New UBC basketball recruit Adam Olsen poses with his dad and former ‘Birds player Mark Olsen, the father and son sporting Mark’s 1977-78 vintage Thunderbirds’ home and away No. 24 jerseys. (Photo courtesy Olsen family 2023 . All Rights Reserved)

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