Tulane’s Olivia Grayson to have Archbishop Chapelle jersey retired Monday night

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Olivia Grayson #21
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Former Archbishop Chapelle star will be the first player in program history with a retired jersey

NEW ORLEANS – Olivia Grayson has been responsible for plenty of firsts in her basketball career.

She helped her Metairie high school, Archbishop Chapelle, win its first-ever state title in her senior year. At Tulane, she became the first player to ever finish her career with more than 1,000 points and 400 assists. Currently, she’s the women’s basketball program’s first-ever Director of Student-Athlete Development and Video.

Very soon, Grayson will be accomplishing another first that might be as distinct as any of them.

On Monday night, Archbishop Chapelle will be retiring Grayson’s No. 21 jersey from her high school days, making her the first player in school history to be honored with her jersey hanging in the gym.

“It’s a special moment for me and my family to know that when you walk into the Chapelle gym from February 4 and beyond, there’s going to be a Grayson in the rafters,” she said.

The recognition is certainly deserved. Grayson left Chapelle as its all-time leading scorer with 2,180 points. Averaging 16.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in her high school years, she took the Chipmunks to the state championship game as a junior and a state championship victory as a senior. The state title marked the first for a Catholic school at the 5A level, and Chapelle had never even won a district title before Grayson’s team.

Despite all of her individual accomplishments, Grayson said her jersey retirement is really a team award. When Chapelle wanted to retire her number, her high school coach Christy Thieler called to see how Grayson would feel about the idea, knowing she might not want to be singled out among her terrific classmates.

Monday’s ceremony comes during the 10-year anniversary of that state championship season, with the entire team being celebrated then as well.

“Our senior class set a goal to win a state championship,” Grayson said. “It was one of our goals to just change the culture of sports at Chapelle and just make it someplace where when you stepped on the court, the only thing you thought about was winning and having that tradition.”

Grayson wore her No. 21 jersey to honor her father, Alonzo Joseph, who also wore that number during his playing days in Louisiana. A lifelong native of Metairie, Grayson lived through Hurricane Katrina right as her freshman year at Chapelle started. Her family evacuated to Baton Rouge, and she even enrolled in high school there for a day before coming back to Metairie months after Katrina.

Her pride in this city is a huge reason why she stayed local for college, playing under Coach Lisa Stockton for four years from 2009-13.

“To be able to come to Tulane and still have my family and the community that I grew up with in the stands pretty much every night was really special and definitely I think is one of the reasons why I played so hard day in and day out at Tulane,” Grayson said.

She continued to give back after her playing days, too. Following a stellar career with the Green Wave, she served as a graduate assistant coach under Stockton from 2013-16.

After a two-year stint as an assistant coach at Northwestern State, Grayson returned home to take a job in the city and university she loves. She’s taking every opportunity to expose Tulane’s student-athletes to what makes New Orleans and Tulane exceptional.

“Now I’m getting to pour back into the players and just expose them to different areas of New Orleans and how the city can really live in you,” Grayson said. “You get a chance to really grow from not only a basketball standpoint but also from a personal development standpoint.”

On Monday night, Archbishop Chapelle and this city will give back to her in some small way.

As a freshman at Tulane, her first game was packed with local fans wearing “TU-rtle” T-shirts, playing off the Tulane name and Grayson’s nickname of “Turtle.” When she graduated as a senior from Tulane, the Senior Night festivities had to be moved to a larger location to accommodate her fans.

On Monday night, the stands might be packed once again for a local star as Chapelle gives her a gigantic honor.

“I started off as an 8-year-old who barely knew how to dribble,” Grayson said. “I continued to develop my game by having people who believed in me enough to push me to different levels. That’s kind of why I am where I am now.”

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