YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Sylvania native Olivia Fouty is in her second season as a member of the Eastern Michigan University women's basketball team.
But it's clear that the Fouty of this year is different from last season's version.
"I put a lot of time and effort in this past off-season," said Fouty, a sophomore forward for the Eagles. "I was in the gym and on the track, running stadium stairs and all that, to get a little slimmer and a little quicker.
"And I was in the gym shooting, working on my 3-pointers and mid-range game, a few post moves, ball-handling -- anything I could to make my game better.
"I put in a lot of hard work, and it's starting to pay off."
This season the Northview High School graduate has started EMU's first 22 games and ranks fourth on the team in scoring with 9.4 points per game. More importantly, she leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game, which is the second-highest total in the Mid-American Conference.
"My biggest role is rebounding," Fouty said. "I need to help get stops on defense, talking [on switches and cutters]. As our defense goes, my offense will come.
"I'm more worried about defense and rebounding, especially offensive rebounds."
That "worry" about offensive rebounds has caused her to grab 4.0 offensive rebounds per game, placing her second in the MAC only to teammate Paige Redditt.
"[My teammate] Tavelyn James calls me, 'Put-Back O' or 'Put-Back Fouty,' " the 5-11 Fouty said. "She always tells me to be ready for her misses.
"And turning offensive rebounds into points? That's easy money. Offensive rebounding, you just go to the ball. Defensive rebounding, you have to press back [to box out your opponent], then go find the ball.
"Finishing is one thing I still need to work on."
Fouty's numbers this season are a far cry from last year, when she played in all 34 games but managed just 2.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in limited minutes.
The difference in Fouty, says EMU coach AnnMarie Gilbert, is the work she put in during the off-season.
"She just became a little more versatile," Gilbert said. "She got in better physical condition, she's better at shooting the 3, and she's better at running with our guards."
Fouty has noticed that Gilbert has shown a lot more confidence in her. "[She knows] I've accepted a role -- whether it's to make the extra pass or grab a critical rebound -- and I'm up for anything," she said. "I don't care if I have a lot of points or anything. I just want our team to win. If we win, I'm happy."
While Fouty's improved play is one reason Eastern Michigan is a contender for the Mid-American Conference's West Division title, the Sylvania native said it isn't the only reason.
"We all play together, and I think that's the biggest difference from last year," she said.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade