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Tigers Sports

Linden Hoops' Standout Ondya Morgan Headed To Manhattan College

Posted Monday, May 11, 2009 by By JR Parachini

Linden Hoops' Standout
Ondya Morgan
Headed To Manhattan College

By JR Parachini
For sidelinechatter.com

Ondya Morgan was a special basketball player for the Linden girls’ team the last four seasons, cutting and slashing her way to the basket after using her speed to dribble past defenders in her path.

She has now become a distinguished athlete in two other ways.

On Friday she signed a letter-of-intent to attend Manhattan College on an athletic scholarship, becoming the first Linden girls’ basketball player in 16 years to advance to the Division 1-A level. Tamecka Dixon, who graduated in 1993, was the last to do so when she moved on to the University of Kansas.

Morgan is also the first recruit of new head coach John Olenowski of Morris Catholic fame.

A gifted student as well who works just as hard – if not harder – in the classroom, Morgan’s eyes light up and her smile widens when talking about playing collegiately.

“I can’t wait,” said Morgan, who earned enough post-season honors to be considered one of the top five girls’ players in Union County this past season. She was also a Watchung Conference Scholar-Athlete.

“If we win the conference (MAAC) we go to the NCAAs,” Morgan said. “I hope to have four shots at that.”

Morgan played both guard positions at Linden and equally well, whether it was bringing up the ball and calling the play or extending herself to either side of the court to get in position for a possible outside shot.

As a four-year starter she helped guide the Tigers to more victories than defeats and to consecutive Union County Tournament semifinal appearances her sophomore and junior seasons. Linden lost both of those games by two points, narrowly missing playing for a county championship on both occasions.

“We were always there and got very close,” Morgan said.

She also considered NJIT and Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“ Manhattan College had the whole package,” said Morgan, who took two trips there. She was able to play in a showcase there during her first excursion and arrived with her parents for a more detailed look of the campus when she came back.

She gave a verbal commitment last week, just days after Olenowski, 53, was officially hired as the school’s seventh head women’s basketball coach.

“Ever since I started playing high school basketball I always wanted to play as high of a level as I could,” said Morgan, who plans to major in marketing. “Coach Olenowski plays up-tempo and his coaching style fits perfectly for me. He’s a defensive coach and he likes to press, which are all things I like to do.”

Morgan averaged 13 points, three assists and three rebounds per game this past season as Linden went 13-10. She paced the Tigers with a 19-point effort in a 45-36 non-league home win over Middlesex County foe Cardinal McCarrick, which entered the game perfect at 14-0.

Three days later in a 56-38 Watchung Conference setback at Plainfield, Morgan scored eight points to pass the 1,000 mark for her career.

“She will have success playing in the MAAC,” said Linden head coach Shamona Patterson, who also played for the Tigers, is a 1990 Linden graduate and who has been at the helm for nine years. “Ondya has tremendous speed. Her style will fit in with coach Olenowski’s style of play.”

Morgan attributes her success at Linden to the dedication she has for the game and the assistance she received from her family.

“It was a combination of hard work, listening to my parents and coaches and believing in the team,” Morgan said.

“Her hard work and dedication helped turned the Linden program into a competitive and respectable one in the county,” Patterson said. “I’m extremely proud of her accomplishments.

“Her speed and ability to get to the basket – she’s an excellent slasher – are the strengths of her game. She’s also very athletic.”

Morgan was also enrolled in the Linden High School Baccalaureate Program, which is designed for highly-motivated juniors and seniors.

“It’s a rigorous program and one of only 10 in New Jersey,” Patterson said. “It’s a program that is separate and set up like college where you only attend a certain amount of classes in a week as if you were attending college. It gives students a chance to go into college with college credit.

“It’s a well-known academic program. Students have to take a test, be screened and have a certain grade-point average to be considered for acceptance.”

Morgan’s presence on the court was more than just baskets, assists, steals and rebounds.

“I worked on becoming more of a scorer because we had a younger team this year, but I also developed a leadership role,” Morgan said. “I helped the coaches by being a floor general and becoming more of a leader.”

Morgan is excited about being Olenowski’s first recruit and realizes the opportunity she has in front of her.

“Coach said that if I work hard, I should have a major role on the team,” Morgan said. “I’m working out already and will work hard to get a spot. Manhattan is not one of the top programs, but it’s not at the bottom either.”

NOTES: Dixon helped lead Linden to the UCT championship in 1993 and to consecutive Group 4 state championships in 1992 and 1993. Linden went on to win the UCT and Group 4 again in 1994.

She is one of only four players in Union County history to score more than 2,000 points.

At Kansas, Dixon was the Big 12 Player of the Year and was also named to the 1996-1997 Kodak All- America Team.

She was selected in the first round of the 1997 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks and is one of six remaining players from the first season of the WNBA.

Dixon has two championship rings, each coming from wins with the Sparks in 2001 and 2002. She also participated in three All-Star games.

“I’ve never met her ( Dixon), but have seen her and been near her at a Rutgers game and have gone to WNBA games,” Morgan said.

Dixon is currently playing for Pozzuoli in Italy during the 2008-2009 WNBA off-season.

Olenowski, a 1978 graduate of Saint Leo College in Saint Leo, Fla., had two stints as the head coach at Morris Catholic in Denville. His first was from 1979-1982 and second and more successful one was from 1995-2006.

In 14 years at the Morris County parochial school, Olenowski’s highly-successful record was 330-39 (.894). That mark included 10 Colonial Hills Conference championships, six MCT crowns, seven sectional titles and three state championships. He led the Crusaders to two Tournament of Champions appearances, reaching the semifinals in 2003.

Olenowski also served as athletic director at the school from 2003-2006.

As the head coach for three years at Pace University in Pleasantville, N.Y. beginning in 1982, Olenowski’s record was 70-28 (.714), including a program-best 28-3 mark in his final season there.

Olenowski comes to Manhattan most recently from Long Island University, where he served as an assistant coach under head coach Gail Striegler last season.

Prior to his stint in Brooklyn, Olenowski returned to collegiate coaching as an assistant coach at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City for the 2007-2008 campaign.

During his one season at St. Peter’s, Olenowski rejuvenated the program and helped lead the Peahens to a 19-12 overall record, which was their first winning season in the previous five years.

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