By FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | February 22, 2023 11:55 PM
Before his Helena Capital Bruins lost at Glacier on Jan. 13, coach Guy Almquist told his radio play-by-play man that Glacier’s Ty Olsen was a point guard in a linebacker’s body.
He wasn’t complaining; he was just stating a fact.
A couple hours later Glacier owned a 51-44 overtime win over the Bruins. Olsen had probably his finest game of the season: 23 points, four rebounds, and a pair of steals to go with two assists.
And a victory.
There’s been quite a few of those in Olsen’s career, including his first start as a sophomore: It was a State AA play-in game at the end of the pandemic-shortened, 2020-21 season. Tied with Missoula Hellgate on the Knights’ home floor, Olsen tracked down a missed Hellgate shot and fed Kiefer Spohnhauer for a breakaway layup as time ran out on a 45-43 Glacier win.
“He’s just an amazing kid,” Glacier coach Mark Harkins said. “He started at the end of his sophomore year, and so he’s been a leader in our program since. And he’s the kid you wanted to be a leader. He gets the kids going. He works his tail off in the offseason, not only on the court but in the weight room.”
As Glacier prepares to play Missoula Big Sky Thursday at the Wolf Den, Olsen is the team’s scoring leader at 10.1 points a game. He also leads the team in steals (1.8 a game) and assists (3.5).
He’s also a tough matchup on defense, owing partly to the weight room, and partly to growing up the third of three sons.
“They always manhandled me around, and I didn’t like that,” he said of playing against Tanner and Jaxson Olsen, who each played for the Wolfpack.
That was then; now he’s put in the work.
“A lot of my friends are football players, so I like trying to outlift them, if I can,” Olsen said. “I’ve always liked working out.”
Glacier is 7-5 in league games, tied with Capital and Glacier for third in the Western AA (with Big Sky right behind at 6-6). You might think it’s been an uneven season, but the league is as balanced as it has been in a while.
Glacier has won 10 games overall with a deep rotation and inside-out play. Noah Dowler and Cohen Kastelitz man the inside; Olsen is one of five capable snipers from the three-point arc, and one of five players averaging between 7.1 and 10.1 points a game.
Olsen hasn’t shot extremely well but if you take away arguably his three worst games he’s at 43 percent. The Pack won all three of those games, by the way: He was scoreless against Great Falls Russell and in Glacier’s first matchup with Flathead, and had just three points in a 10-point win over second-place Helena.
“Obviously it’s awesome if you score,” Olsen said. “But if not, anyone else can step up. We’ve had multiple games where four people have scored in double figures. If I can get people the ball and they’re scoring, that’s a win for me.
“Everyone has their nights where they go off and help the team out.”
“If you look at those games, he shows up in so many other ways,” Harkins said. “His assist to turnover ratio is great.”
The veteran coach is a pretty big fan. He marvels that Olsen went out of track for the first time as a junior and placed fifth at the State AA meet in the triple jump. Harkins noted that last week Olsen and a handful of classmates won Montana’s We The People high school constitutional competition.
“He’s a great student,” Harkins adds. “He’s an All-American. Everything you want.”
The son of a local optometrist, Olsen says his post-graduation plans — like Jaxson has, he plans to this summer and then go on an LDS mission in the fall — are pretty much set.
“When I come back I’ll do something in business,” he said.
Tanner Olsen is studying to be an orthopedist, but the medical field is apparently not for him.
“I took anatomy this year,” he said. “Good class, but I don’t think that’s really my thing.”
The immediate goal is to win some basketball games, and make a third straight State AA tournament
“I think we’re a very skilled team,” he said.”And I think we can make the state tournament and we can make a run at it.
“We have size, experience and I think we have great athletes. I think we can make a run.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a strong leader at the point; for two seasons now, it’s worked out just fine.
“It helps for sure, being stronger,” Olsen said. “As well as competing with bigger and stronger people when you’re younger. That helped.”