For Olivier-Maxence Prosper, the lessons and experiences aren’t just for himself as he gets closer to a potential shot at his NBA dream.
They’re also for the Montreal native to share with her younger sister, Cassandre, who is embarking on a path she hopes leads to the WNBA.
“Growing up, I tried to be the best role model I can be for her,” he told The Canadian Press. “All the experiences I went through, I just help her so she could get better, so her experiences could be better than mine.
“She’s my only sibling and me and her are really, really close and as an older brother I just want to do everything I can to help her basketball journey be the best it can be and to guide her through it.”
Olivier-Maxence is a 6-foot-eight, 230-pound junior forward for the Marquette Golden Eagles, ranked 16th in NCAA Division I men’s basketball.
Cassandre, meanwhile, is a six-foot-two guard who recently joined the seventh-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish as a 2023 five-star recruit from the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association’s Capital Courts Academy.
The two were born and raised in Montreal, the children of mother Guylaine and father Gaetan, who both played collegiate basketball in the 90s.
Guylaine played one year of Division I basketball at Manhattan College before returning to compete for Concordia University, where she was a two-time RSEQ all-star. Gaetan also played at Concordia, where he was a three-time RSEQ all-star.
“My parents lived basketball … I live basketball, so it’s been great,” Olivier-Maxence said. “It’s great to have parents and people around you who played the game because it makes (it) easier for me to grow up in an environment like this.”
Basketball was something that was “instilled” in the 20- and 17-year-olds from a very young age.
“Honestly, I always joke around that I was brainwashed into playing basketball and loving basketball, but it’s great,” Cassandre said.
For Cassandre, however, her brother’s influence played a big role growing up.
“I think the way I look up to him, … he was such a great player on the field, but the way he conducted himself off the field just made him so great on the field,” she said.
“I think what I love about him is that he’s always understood that I’m his little sister and I look up to him. So whatever he did, he did it with the intention of, ‘I have somebody that I’m trying to inspire,’ and he always did things right on the field.
Marquette head coach Shaka Smart says intention has played a factor in Olivier-Maxence’s breakout junior season.
The forward is averaging a career-best 14.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, both good for second on the team.
“O-Max has really worked. He has been an everyday man,” Smart said. “Staying in the gym, doing extra, spending time with more members of our program, getting better and being very, very conscious of the areas where he needs to grow and wants to grow.
“He’s done a great job using the experiences he’s had in his first couple of years in college. Being an older, more confident, more mature player this year, and that doesn’t just happen.”
Olivier-Maxence was a four-star recruit out of the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico, where he played his senior year alongside Indiana Pacers rookie Bennedict Mathurin, also from Montreal. He then signed with Clemson before transferring to Marquette for his sophomore season.
Before that, he moved to Chicago at 16, where his journey south of the border started with Lake Forest Academy. His high school in Blainville, Que., L’Académie Ste-Thérèse, did not have a basketball team. He played for a local Amateur Athletic Union team, Brookwood Elite, before seeking a new challenge.
“That year was really great for me because it helped me mature so much, not only as a basketball player, but also as a young man who left home early,” he said of Lake Forest Academy. “Having to live on my own and really start to mature and be disciplined to do things on my own.”
Cassandre also left Montreal and moved to Ottawa at 15 to play for the Capital Courts.
There, she finished her career averaging a league-leading 25.1 points while grabbing 13.7 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.6 blocks per game, leading the team to its first-ever OSBA championship in 2022. She also became named league and Final 8 MVP.
For Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey, a former WNBA player and mother of Detroit Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey, Cassandre’s talent and potential are immense.
“I think her talent is program-changing. The future is bright for us with her here,” Ivey said. “She’s getting a little acclimated to the collegiate game, but she’s making an immediate impact. I think for us, she’s going to play a big role in what we’re doing, and that’s exciting for me.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 24, 2023.
Abdulhamid Ibrahim, Canadian Press