High School Sports

This Columbus teen is now a gold medalist for Team USA after World Cup victory

She didn’t start playing on a basketball team until middle school, but six years later, Carver High School rising senior Olivia Cochran is an international gold medalist.

After leading the Tigers to their first state title in March, she also was the top scorer for Team USA as it won the FIBA 3x3 U18 Women’s World Cup this month in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Winning the world championship boosted her confidence, Cochran said, but “I’m still humble. I’m just blessed to get a gold medal and be named part of the USA 3-on-3.”

Cochran hasn’t been playing basketball as long as many others who reach the elite level, but Carver coach Anson Hundley noted, “She has very good DNA.”

Her mother, Tara Williams, was a second-team All-SEC guard as a senior at Auburn in 1997 and played two seasons in the WNBA (1997 for Phoenix and 2000 for Portland).

Her father, Antonio Cochran, was a defensive lineman at Georgia and was picked by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth road of the 1999 NFL draft. He played five seasons for Seattle and one season for the Arizona Cardinals.

But the only type of basketball she played before sixth grade was for recreation.

“I was a cheerleader, actually,” Cochran said. “I played softball.”

Then a friend at Rothschild Leadership Academy convinced her to join the basketball team.

“It was a bumpy road,” she said. “I didn’t think I would pull through. … But I just started liking it.”

Hundley interjected with a laugh, “Because she came to Carver.”

Ascending the ranks

As a junior center for Carver, Cochran averaged 27 points, 16 rebounds and 8 blocks per game. She scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Georgia High School Association Class AAAA girls state final, a 56-44 victory over Spalding to cap an undefeated (32-0) season for the Tigers.

The next month, in April, Cochran was named most valuable player at USA Basketball Women’s 3x3 U18 National Championship tournament at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her team won the title, going 7-1 with three AAU teammates from Atlanta-based FBC (Finest Basketball Club): Madison Hayes of East Hamilton High School (Ooltewah, Tennessee), Treasure Hunt of Hamilton Heights High School (Chattanooga, Tennessee) and Raven Johnson of Westlake High School (Atlanta).

“I think I played OK,” Cochran said. “I didn’t think I’d get MVP status. But when they called me up there for the trophy, I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I was shocked. But my teammates helped me get to that level.”

Being selected for Team USA, Cochran said, also shocked her.

“I was a little nervous,” she said. “I didn’t want to go all the way to Mongolia, but my mom and my dad, they had talked me into going.”

She is glad she did, despite swollen feet from the 12-hour plane ride on her first overseas trip.

“It was an amazing adventure,” she said. “It was different up there. It wasn’t like Columbus, Georgia.”

Cochran wasn’t able to tour Mongolia beyond Ulaanbaatar, but she enjoyed getting to know some of the players from other countries.

“We got to trade our gear with the other international teams,” she said. “I got a jacket from Brazil. I have a hoodie from New Zealand, and I have another jacket from Mongolia.”

Cochran also was amazed by the attention she received from fans.

“People would just walk up to you and just take pictures with you,” she said. “It made you feel good.”

‘Great player and a great kid’

Hundley called Cochran “a great player and a great kid. She deserves to be on this level. It’s national attention for her, it’s national attention for our school, and she just did a great job while she was out there and representing the school and the city.”

Hundley watched online the live-streaming of the World Cup games from Mongolia. It was in the wee hours of the morning in Columbus, but the lost sleep was worthwhile to keep up with Cochran.

“I was just excited for her,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to do things like this.”

Team USA went undefeated (7-0) during the World Cup in Mongolia, where 20 teams competed. Cochran led Team USA in scoring, with 41 points in seven games, the fourth-highest total in the tournament. Other members of Team USA were Hayes, Rickea Jackson of Edison Public Academy (Detroit, Michigan) and Hailey Van Lith of Cashmere High School (Wenatchee, Washington). Team USA previously won this seven-year-old event in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

The 3x3 format, which will make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, features three players per team (one substitute) competing on a half court with one hoop. Games last 10 minutes and have a 12-second shot clock. The first team to score 21 points wins.

The 3-on-3 rules helped Cochran learn to be a more physical player, she said, because the referees called significantly fewer fouls.

“I had to play through contact,” she said.

College plan

The publicity she received for succeeding in national and international tournaments has resulted in more college scholarship offers, Cochran said, but she is mum about divulging which ones she is considering.

“I’m going to be signing in November,” she said. “That’s all I can give you.”

Cochran did say, however, she wants to play for a college that’s within driving distance but not too close to home. She also wants a team that “plays hard regardless if they’re down and out” and a school with a good communications department so she can major in broadcasting.

But first, her goal is to win a second-straight state championship. Although she plays in the post for Carver, Hundley plans to use her as a guard as well next season.

Some recruiting websites list her as tall as 6-foot-3, but Cochran insists she is 6-foot-1. ProspectsNation ranks her No. 12 among the 2020 women’s basketball recruits in the country. ESPN ranks her No. 21 overall and No. 4 at forward.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.