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WBCA announces Isaiah Deitz and Olivia Close as recipients of the Legacy Leadership Award

03/23/2023, 11:00am CDT

The Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association has announced Isaiah Deitz of Chequamegon and Olivia Close of Wauwatosa East as the 2023 student recipients of the Legacy Leadership Award. 

The award was established in 2019 to honor the legacy, leadership, and lives of WBCA Executive Board members John Cary (former MACC Fund director), Jerry Petitgoue (state's winningest coach & WBCA Executive Director), and David Royston (founder of JustAGame Fieldhouse) in recognition of their leadership qualities, characteristics in interpersonal relationships, and achievement as Board members.

The WBCA-MACC Fund Legacy Award will be given annually to an Executive Board member and senior student who demonstrates the exemplary qualities of Character, Courage, and Service. Niki Sutter of Oshkosh was previously selected as the Executive Board recipient of the award this year.

The supporting information provided by the coaches of Dietz and Close can be found below.

Legacy Leadership Award: Boys Player - Isaiah Deitz, Chequamegon

Supporting information from Chequamegon coach Thomas Tollakson:

When I first read about the qualities of the Legacy Leadership Award: Character, Courage, and Service, I immediately thought of Isaiah Deitz for this prestigious award. Over the last four years, Isaiah Deitz has exemplified the characteristics of character, courage, and service in our Chequamegon Boys Basketball Program, school, and community. Isaiah has had a profound impact on his teammates by leading by example and caring for them as people, not just basketball players.

Isaiah has committed himself to the game of basketball by working on his game early in the morning, on weekends, and when most are not willing to make time for basketball. Isaiah gives rides to underclassmen and brings them with him when he is doing extra workout sessions. Isaiah has helped create a desire in our program to improve yourself as a basketball player by being willing to make sacrifices in order to get in the gym. 

Isaiah is a positive role model for the youth in our community, not only because of what he can do on the court, but because he wants to inspire our youth to be the best version of themselves. He comes to the elementary school and speaks to students about basketball and what he has done to improve as a player and as a person. His message has had a strong impact on boys and girls who are now more willing to invest more time in basketball and helping others. Isaiah volunteers his time to help at our Little Eagles Youth Basketball sessions on Saturday mornings. He has also officiated youth basketball games for our youth program.  

Isaiah has the courage to overcome; there were those who said he couldn't play basketball at the next level. Those who said he wasn’t skilled enough. Those who said he wasn’t strong enough. Those who said playing in northern Wisconsin in the small district of Chequamegon was going to keep him from getting noticed. He never wavered in his desire to accomplish his goal of playing college basketball. Isaiah is a great example of someone who believed in himself and gave everything he had to the game of basketball, his school, and his community. Isaiah received a scholarship to play basketball at Concordia University St. Paul, a Division II school located in St. Paul, Minnesota. He accepted and will attend this fall.  

Isaiah has been an example of servant leadership by giving his time to others in the community. Isaiah volunteers his time to work with our youth basketball players. I have watched Isaiah pick up empty bottles and garbage from our bench and bleachers after a game. Isaiah can often be seen talking to his teammates during practice and games with the intention of picking them up when they are feeling down on themselves. Isaiah’s actions towards his teammates communicates trust, belief, and love to each and every one of his 18 “brothers”. Isaiah Deitz serves others--not to get attention or to be recognized for it; he serves others because through his faith and upbringing he has learned that helping others makes his life more fulfilling and enjoyable.  

Legacy Leadership Award: Girls Player - Olivia Close, Wauwatosa East

Supporting information from Wauwatosa East head coach Mary Merg:

When you look at the qualities of the Legacy Leadership Award: character, courage, and service, it is evident to see how Olivia Close earned this prestigious award. Over the past four years, Olivia has made an immense impact not only on the court and in the classroom, but also in the Wauwatosa and Greater Milwaukee community.

Olivia is a 4 year varsity member and 2 year captain for the Wauwatosa East Girls Basketball Program. On the court, Olivia’s character speaks for itself. Olivia has been our starting point guard since her freshman year. Our program at that time was struggling with injuries, transfers, and lack of commitments. We didn't win a conference game her freshman year and only won 1 conference game her sophomore year. Yet through the constant struggles, Olivia never gave up. Olivia would come to school an hour early to get shots up, she'd watch game film on her own, and she craved more feedback, always coachable. Not many athletes have navigated the constant adversity that Olivia has. Winning a total of 8 games in 2 years as the starting point guard, it's frustrating, it's exhausting, and it can be a detriment to confidence. But the constant is that Olivia never backed down, stayed positive, and continued to give her best effort. It was also early on in her freshman year I noticed that Olivia always picked up the balls after practice, usually by herself, even though I never asked her to once. She is always looking for ways to help.

Junior year is when Olivia really started to break out not only in her basketball performance, but in her leadership role as well. Olivia became a 1st Team All Greater Metro Conference player, averaging 18 points & 3.6 steals per game. She led her team to 10 wins and more importantly started to change the culture at East. As a leader, Olivia leads by example. She is soft spoken by nature, but her teammates follow her lead. Olivia never takes a practice, a drill, a second off and that radiates onto her teammates. In addition, she is always lending an ear for her teammates and truly enjoys their success as much as her own.

It has been a complete transformation for Olivia as she finished her senior year. Olivia led her team to a Top 5 finish in conference, a regional championship, and a total of 15 wins this past season. All of her basketball accolades she has earned is through sheer grit, work ethic, and mental toughness. As a leader, Olivia understood that going alone will only get you so far. What was once very few showing up for off-season workouts, now became the entire program of 30 players. What once was only her showing up for 7am shooting workouts before school, now became a group of players. In addition, Olivia has volunteered countless hours in our youth program, running clinics and organizing events. She is always the first to volunteer and the last one to leave. And once more, still picking up all the basketballs before she leaves the gym.

You see her character, courage, and service off the court as well. Olivia currently has a 4.0 GPA. Olivia holds leadership roles in National Honors Society, Key Club (volunteering club), Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and Link Crew (school culture organization). Outside of Tosa East, she continues to serve. Olivia is a member of ENGin and tutors English to a girl in Ukraine once a week. She also tutors a girl in China before school starts on Thursdays. Olivia is a member of the International Institute of Wisconsin and volunteers weekly helping a refugee family adjust & transition to the US culture. Lastly, she is on the Wauwatosa Youth Commission and was chosen as a representative to common council and mayor for community input and initiatives. Olivia embodies the definition of service.

Olivia is undecided on where she will attend college, but plans on potentially pursuing international studies & immigration policy as a field of study. Truly, it is hard to put into words the profound impact Olivia has had in our community. Her legacy is not just a moment of time, not just a 4 year experience, it is a lasting impact that will carry over for years to come. The Tosa East community is so fortunate to call Olivia ours. She is a confident leader, a mentor, and a server. Olivia brings a special presence to the girls basketball program, not because of her talent, but who she is as a person.

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