Archdeacon: Miami standout on the cutting edge of stardom

OXFORD — Being told “No!” no longer fazes Ivy Wolf.

It didn’t Wednesday night when Kent State held the high-scoring Miami guard to five points in the first half, got her to commit two turnovers and two fouls and caused RedHawks coach DeUnna Hendrix to bring her back to the bench a couple of times so she could sit and reset.

And it surely didn’t stymie her this summer when she was selling knives for Cutco and had a few of her over-the-phone sales pitches swatted aside as if she’d just lofted a soft layup in front of a towering, slap-’em-into-the-seats center.

“Yeah, there was one girl, she knows my family from when we lived in Indiana, she declined my call, then texted me and said, ‘Tell me who this is before I call the cops,’” Wolf said.

“I told her who I was and she said ‘Look, Ivy, I’ve never liked you.’

Recalling the conversation, she couldn’t help but laugh:

“I haven’t seen her since I was three years old! I showed my mom and said ‘Whoa, was I like a (crappy) little kid?’

“But one thing I learned on this job: I’m fine with hearing the word “No!’ and moving on to the next customer.”

She became such a good saleswoman that she said she sold over $30,000 worth of knives this summer, was promoted and she still works for the company.

Ivy Wolf is someone who’s not easily deterred, whether it’s over the phone or out on the court.

Kent State found that out when she led Miami — which had come into the game with 5-10 record compared to the Golden Flashes’ 10-3 mark — to a come from behind, 84-76 victory in overtime at Millett Hall.

At one point, Miami was down by 11 and even though it tied the game, 68-all, at the end of regulation play things looked dire because two of the team’s leading scorers, Peyton Scott and Maddi Cluse, both had fouled out.

Wolf scored nine points in the fourth quarter and in overtime — with three post players and a guard off the bench in the lineup with her — she scored six more to give Miami its biggest victory of the season.

While the RedHawks had several heroes on this night, none was bigger than Wolf, who finished with a game-high 25 points.

Afterward Hendrix summed up her effort, saying she does “everything” for the team.

The numbers support that.

Averaging 18 points per game, the 5-foot-8 sophomore is fourth in the Mid-American Conference in scoring, sixth in three point field goal percentage — she went 5 for 8 against Kent State — and is 11th in assists.

She leads the MAC and is fifth in the nation in free throw percentage, having made 54 of 58 for 93.1 percent.

She was impressive in the nine years she played with the nationally-acclaimed Dayton Lady HoopStars AAU team and especially came into her own at Minster High School, where she’s the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,685 points.

She was the Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year three times, an All Ohio first-team pick three times and was part of two Division IV state championship teams.

And yet she likely wouldn’t even command the top of the marquee in her own home.

The Wolfs are one the most accomplished sports families in the Miami Valley.

Her dad, James, was a multi-sport standout at Minster and then a defensive end on the University of Dayton’s Division III national champion football team in 1989. He also played baseball for the Flyers.

Her mom, then Shelly Jackson, was a sports star at Ben Logan High School near Bellefontaine and played basketball at Ohio Northern University. For several years she’s coached basketball — from grade school teams to varsity — in Minster.

James and Shelly now run Ernst Apparel, which provides, among other things, clothing for 175 high school and college teams and academic programs across the Midwest.

Ivy’s oldest sister, Delanie, won an NCAA Division II national basketball championship with Ashland University.

Eldest brother, Ethan, was a celebrated tight end at the University of Tennessee, played for the New Orleans Saints in 2021, made the practice squads of six other NFL teams and now is part of the XFL’s DC Defenders, who begin play next month.

Brother Eli, who caught the winning TD pass in the state title game for Minster High, played college football at Tennessee and Georgia and is now on injured reserve with the Washington Commanders, his fourth NFL club.

Sister Demaris had small college offers to play basketball, but chose the academic route at the University of Cincinnati and youngest sister Charley is a sixth-grade basketball player in Minster.

The other night Charley was in the Millett Hall stands with her mom and dad.

James has made every one of Ivy’s college games, just as he attended 66 football games when Ethan and Eli were playing. Shelly was at all but handful of those games, too.

“It’s a little different feel being with 104,000 people at Tennessee and seeing your son catch a touchdown in the Florida game and seeing Ivy bury a three against Kent State (where the Millett attendance was 209),” James said. “But it’s not that different.

“In the end, you just want to see your kids’ hard work pay off.”

But then there are those few instances when a Wolf venture doesn’t quite succeed, like the time two years ago when Charley tried to dunk on the 10-foot hoop they have in front of their home on Lakewood Avenue in Minster.

“My brother Eli threw me up to help me out,” she grinned. “I grabbed the rim, but then I fell down backward and tried to break my fall. I broke my radius and ulna.”

“Eli threw her up, then forgot to catch her,” Ivy said.

“I’m all healed up now, but we don’t do that anymore,” Charley admitted with a little laugh.

So there are times in the Wolf Family now when “No! definitely means “No!”

‘We’ve just got to kick the door down’

As he and Shelly raised their family of athletes, James said the kids jokingly referred to the Lessons of Lakewood:

“That’s where they said Dad would sit them all down and talk. It started with the oldest and everybody was in the room and they all heard it. It might not have applied to the younger ones, but they saw their brothers and sisters do it and eventually every kid follows suit and already knows what’s expected of them.

“Shelly and I saw sports as a tool to teach a lot of life lessons we wanted our kids to learn. It was a hands on approach, not something that was just in a text book.”

Ivy, who said her mom named her after the former Notre Dame and WNBA player and current Fighting Irish coach, Niele Ivey, began to embrace basketball as a grade school kid in Minster.

“Me and one of my best friends, she plays at Findlay now, we were water girls for the varsity team,” she said. “I was at their practice every day and then I’d go to my own practice. So I was in the gym all the time.

“We be on the bus for every away game. We’d get to go in the locker room for the speeches and we sat on the bench during games and went to film sessions.

“At that time I thought ‘These varsity girls are so cool. I want to be one of them one day,’”

Back then her mom made sure Ivy was bettering herself each day in the gym.

“Instead of her launching half-court shots like a lot of kids do when they’ve got free time, my wife would have her go over and work on her left hand or go shoot 50 free throws.” James said.

“And as Ivy got older, she got more regimented. If she missed the front end of a one-and-one in a game, the next morning before school she’d shoot 100 free throws.

“Now she’s a 95 percent free throw shooter and I believe that has something to do with the 1,000 free throws she shot each month since fourth grade.”

When it came time for college she narrowed her list to three schools — Kent State, Bowling Green and Miami — choosing the latter, she said, because of academics at the school, the coaches — “they were amazing to me” — and the closeness to home so her family could come see her games.

“And she wanted a place where she was going to play, not be like the eighth person on the bench at a place like Penn State and playing six minutes,” James said.

Ivy started all 29 games as a freshman at Miami and averaged 12.6 points.

“She was thrown into the fire last year and she had a lot to learn,” Hendrix said. “Now things are starting to click for her.

“She’s one of our best defenders and she knows the things we’re looking for on offense. And the more she learns, the better she gets.”

On Dec. 11 this season, Wolf scored her 500th point as a RedHawk, reaching the milestone the third fastest of any player in program history.

Following up Wednesday’s big game, she had 19 points in a 92-61 loss today at Ball State.

Miami is the only program in the MAC this season to have three players among the league’s top 14 scorers.

Scott, who had 12 points today, is 14th and now has 1,629 career points, fifth on Miami’s all-time list of scorers. And Cluse, who had 13 today, is eight in scoring, averaging 15.1 points.

I don’t think our record (now 6-11) does a very good job of showing who we are,” Wolf said the other night. “We’ve got weapons of our own who people have to worry about.”

She believes the RedHawks, who went 8-21 last year, are close to turning the program around.

“We just keep saying, ‘We’re right there. We’ve just got to kick down the door.”

‘Better version of myself’

Last month Ivy completed the rigorous 75 Hard challenge, a mental toughness program that creator Andy Frisella calls “The Ironman for your brain.”

It’s a 75-day challenge built around principles of discipline, determination and self-esteem.

“Every day you have to do two different workouts and one has to be outside,” Wolf said. “I’d get one workout with basketball and the other one I’d either go out and walk or jog.

“You also have to read 10 pages of a (nonfiction) book each day, drink a gallon of water and take something out of your diet, so I took out all candy and all sweets.

“You can’t have alcohol, which wasn’t an issue for me, and you have to take a progressive picture of yourself each day.”

She changed the music she listened to, kept a journal and listened to motivational podcasts. And if you missed just one of those things on any day, you had to start the whole 75 day challenge over.

“There were a few times I forgot to go on my walk and my roommate would remind me, ‘Hey, it’s 11 o’clock you’ve got to do your walk.’ And I’d be like (‘dang’) and put my coat on and head out.”

She was still doing the challenge a month into the basketball season which meant she not only had to do it on the road when the team travelled, but on game days.

“More than anything, it was a mental thing and I did feel better about myself after I did this,” she said.

“It shows the type of girl she is,” her dad said. “It shows how she connects to something and commits to it.”

“I just wanted to be a better version of myself,” Ivy shrugged.

That’s what she’s become on the court this season and in her side job, though she admits her teammates like to tease her about being a knife seller. She pays them no heed, just as she did her own family when she made a request on a group text and realized they all laughed about it.

“She told Eli, ‘Hey give me Kirby Smart’s phone number,’” James remembered.

Her brother, who had played for the Georgia coach, asked why in the world she needed that.

“She told her brother, “I want to sell him some Cutco knives!’” James said.

“Well, everybody laughed and she was like ‘What? Why are you laughing? I’m serious. Why couldn’t I sell him knives?’

“‘I know I could!’”

Ivy Wolf also knows how to get a “Yes!”

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