MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- MTSU freshmen Olivia Jones and Ty Petty have already made a statement during their first season with the Lady Raiders.
Jones and Petty, both of whom are former Riverdale High School standouts, decided to stay home to play college basketball after winning three TSSAA state titles in four years while members of the Lady Warriors.
“Both of them had the opportunity to play on tremendous high school teams, which won state championships, and they also won national championships on the AAU level,” MTSU assistant head coach Kim Brewton said. “That prepared them for the intensity that comes with Division I basketball. You can tell that by the way they are contributing right now.”
Currently, both players are playing a key role during the early success of the Lady Raiders, who were riding an 11-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s contest at Louisiana Tech.
Jones has played in all 15 games, including starting 14, and is averaging 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as one of the top freshman forwards in C-USA. While Petty has played in 13 games as a back-up point guard, she is one of the Lady Raiders deep threats from beyond the arc as evidenced by her 54 percent shooting.
The dynamic duo feel like they have made the transition to the college level.
“It is a great experience because I came here for a reason,” said Petty, who hit a season-high six 3-pointers and scored 20 points against Southeastern Louisiana earlier this season. “I have enjoyed it, I have gotten better and my team has gotten better.”
Added Jones: “It's a blessing to stay home and play in front of our local fans from high school. It is great to see our team grow.”
Of course, the duo is well known around the Rutherford County area because of helping create a dynasty at Riverdale. Both were members of the three-time TSSAA state champions, and last season the Lady Warriors were named National Champions by MaxPreps and ESPN. Their head coach from last season's undefeated Riverdale team, Cory Barrett, knew both of them would play a big part for the Lady Raiders this season.
“It is not surprising at all,” Barrett said. “I knew the intangibles that Jones possessed are what Coach Insell likes, and if she bought into his vision then it would be a match made in heaven. I see her doing so many things that may go unnoticed to a casual fan. Petty has shown big play ability by coming in and hitting six 3-pointers against Southeastern Louisiana.
“That just shows you right there what she is capable of. They both are going to be great players for the Lady Raiders program for years to come, and the impact they have now is only a glimpse of what is to come from them and all of the Lady Raiders in the future.”
After both of their high school careers were over, each knew they wanted to stay home and play for a winning program like MTSU. The long-time friends decided to turn their college decision into a package deal for Insell and the Lady Raiders.
“We decided to come here together,” Jones said. “We wanted to play together since we have played since elementary together. We already had chemistry, so we decided to come here.”
Even though the two played against each other during middle school, Petty at Christiana and Jones at Rockvale, the partnership started at the AAU level.
Now, the partners hope to help continue the winning tradition at MTSU and bring home more championships to the program the same way they helped start the success at Riverdale.
“We just need to keep communicating and not get relaxed with winning,” Jones said. “We just need to continue to get better at our game.”