On the first day of school, most kids walk in to find out that they have been placed with some old boring teacher that everyone dislikes. Well, imagine my surprise when I found out my teacher’s son had scored the first two points of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game!
That’s right, my teacher, Mrs. Olander is the mother of UConn Huskies starting forward Tyler Olander! In addition, Tyler’s 7-foot brother is the star center for the Fairfield University Stags, Ryan Olander! Mrs. O’s youngest child, Morgan, plays for the E.O. Smith High School (Mansfield, Connecticut) girl’s basketball team. Morgan is currently being recruited by a pool of Division I schools. Talk about a huge sports family!
"It’s a lot of fun," says Tyler. "Playing against my brother and supporting my siblings, it’s definitely something special."
As kids, Ryan and Tyler played one-on-one in the driveway whenever they could.
"A lot of times no one would win because the game would end in a fight or argument before anyone actually won," says Ryan.
"Tyler and Ryan were very competitive in sports as kids," says Mrs. Olander. "Not one game got finished in the driveway without a battle at the end of it. Screaming and yelling fits, always."
Mrs. Olander is a former college basketball player herself, at Division III Keene State where she’s still the school’s all-time career leader in scoring average. “I gave Tyler and Ryan all the tips I could," says Mrs. O, "but they really worked hard on their own." Mr. Olander, a college baseball player at UConn and later a high school baseball and basketball coach, was also a big help coaching both boys.
Later this week, these former backyard battlers will be facing off for the first time as college standouts. On Thursday, UConn is facing Fairfield at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
Tyler wants a dunk on his brother. "Yeah, definitely," he says confidently. And he has the right to feel confident on a Huskies team stacked with stars such as All-America guard Jeremy Lamb, forward/center Alex Oriakhi, and of course freshman center Andre Drummond. But Ryan’s Stags are a solid team too. He, junior guard Derek Needham and senior swingman Rakim Sanders will need to play their best to compete with the eighth-ranked Huskies.
Lots of the Olanders' family and friends are going to the big game. Mrs. And Mr. Olander will be wearing custom made shirts to commemorate the game. The front it says, "FairConn" and the back says,"Either way we win." The game is so important to the Olanders and their hometown of Mansfield that E.O. Smith High School actually moved Morgan’s basketball game to the afternoon just so no one would miss the big showdown.
It’s great for a sports-crazy kid like me to have a sports-loving teacher like Mrs. O, but even more importantly, she’s a great teacher and I’m always learning a lot. Let’s go FairConn!