Her name hangs in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym for all to see. Thirteen letters sewn onto a purple banner— a testament to both her work ethic and skill level— immortalizing her legacy as an all-time women’s basketball player.
That name has become a part of a calling card synonymous with the success of the Emerson women’s basketball team.
“Olivia DiNucci for three,” is all too common the drawout call by those who announce women’s basketball home games.
She is the women’s basketball team captain, leading scorer, and one of the most lethal shooters in Emerson women’s basketball history.
And now, she’s playing with an edge.
“It’s weird, this year I’ve played a lot more angry, because I’ve been getting frustrated and I try to channel the frustration,” DiNucci said. “I used to think about every little thing, but this year I’m just going after things.”
But more than anything, DiNucci’s new attitude is a tribute to her assassin-like mentality on the court— if she is playing well, but her team is not winning, that is not good enough. This year, the Lions have struggled to win through stretches, going on a 10-game losing streak that spanned 48 days, from Nov. 20 through Jan. 7. In the midst of that streak, she scored her 1,000th career point.
“She’s the type of player that can score 30 points, but if [the team loses], she’s not happy,” said Kathy Andrade in a phone
interview. Andrade, who graduated last year, is the second all-time leading scorer for Emerson women’s basketball — tallying 1,182 points — but soon may be surpassed by her former teammate DiNucci.
Both Andrade and women’s basketball head coach Bill Gould cited DiNucci’s work ethic as something that sets her apart from other players.
“From the start, you could just tell she was a hard worker,” Andrade said. “She was the first one in the gym putting up jumpshots, and the last one to leave putting up jumpshots.”
DiNucci said her shooting sessions began in seventh grade, when her family bought her older sister a shot machine. In the DiNuccis’ expansive driveway in Pittsburgh, Penn., Olivia said she would go out and put up countless jumpshots, even turning it into her own pseudo competition.
“I would compete against myself,” DiNucci said. “There were three different shooters and they were competing for the shooting award, and I would test myself [by shooting] best out of 100 three times, and then at the end say, ‘the winner is this person.’ I had to do it to make it fun for me.”
The hard work has paid off. DiNucci is not only one of the most efficient shooters in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) — she leads the conference in three-pointers made per game with over three — but also in the country. Her quick release coupled with her 5-foot-10 frame makes her a nightmare for opposing defenders.
“She’s a tall guard, and she can shoot the ball and flat out score, and I think she has a chance to go over to Europe and play professionally,” Gould said.
And like many scorers, DiNucci embraces her role with a humble attitude and a hint of swagger. “I know my role is to score,” DiNucci said. “And when I can get open I expect the ball.”
But as DiNucci has lit up opposing teams, they have learned to make her part of their gameplan. The political communication major sees constant double teams and consistent defensive pressure. In a Jan. 12 win versus GNAC foe Lasell, the visiting Lasers ran a box-and-one against Emerson, devoting one defender solely to DiNucci at all times, leaving the other four players in a zone to defend the rest of the Lions on the floor.
“That’s when it’s easier for other people to score,” DiNucci said.
Emerson won the game 53-47, but DiNucci scored only seven points on six shots.
“Good players are good everywhere,” DiNucci said. “I definitely need to work on my defense and my footwork, and if I want to work on those things, I have to commit a lot of time to that.”
Her coach has encouraged her to improve upon other aspects of her game, knowing her points can come from areas other than her jumpshot.
“I think if she wants to —I don’t know if she does or not — but she can improve in other areas of her game,” Gould said.
But DiNucci has been quite successful doing what she does best. Her name hangs on the GNAC rookie of the year banner in the gym, since she won the award in the 2010 season.
And soon, her name will again make its way into the Emerson rafters, as the junior scored her 1,000th career point a few weeks ago.
“That is my strength, to score. It’s cool to be a part of that [group],” DiNucci said. “I have a lot to go though. It’s not just like, ‘I got my 1,000th, I’m done scoring now.”
The accomplishment was achieved while Emerson traveled to Pittsburgh and Ohio. Needing 44 points in the two games to reach the 1,000-point plateau, DiNucci netted 19 in her hometown and 26 in the Buckeye state, all in front of her family.
“I wasn’t sure how many I needed. It wasn’t the best game to get my 1,000th point, but it was great my parents got to see it,” DiNucci said.
After she reached the accomplishment at Ohio-Eastern College, a text message was waiting from former teammate and fellow member of the 1,000-point club Andrade.
“She sent me a text just congratulating me on it and wishing me good luck for the rest of the season,” DiNucci said.
DiNucci, Andrade, and Molly Zahr are the only three women to score 1,000 points in their Emerson basketball careers. DiNucci became the fastest female basketball player at Emerson to do so, getting there in only 68 games.
“I think the fact that she’s done it in such the way that she did it as a junior, and really without a scoring partner, is incredible,” Gould said. “It’s absurd when everybody in the gym knows what she’s going to do, and she still does it.”