'Air France' takes flight in Folsom

By: Matt Long/Telegraph Sports Editor
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This is Edwin Olympio’s first year at Folsom High, but he’s already one of the more popular students on campus. Many students know him as the new kid at the school, who moved from France last summer to finish his final two high school years at Folsom High. Others know him as a member of the varsity boys’ basketball team. Everyone else found out who he was at a recent pep rally held at the school. Representing the junior class, the 6-foot, 3-inch Frenchman took his act to the air as he threw down a couple crowd-pleasing dunks that had seniors and freshman alike marveling at his talent. Using three extra-large inner tubes as a prop, Olympio leaped over the barrier and dunked the basketball with his left hand. Then he pulled himself up to the rim and flipped backwards and landed on his feet, then in no uncertain terms let the senior class know the junior class is No. 1. “We call him Air France,” Folsom senior guard Anthony Lee said. “He can flat out jump. He brings us athleticism, but beyond basketball, he’s a great guy to be around and we all love hanging out with him.” Olympio, 17, came to Folsom last August from Marseille, France, the second-biggest city in the country after Paris, located on the Southeastern coast bordering the Mediterranean Sea. After his parents decided to move back to their home country of Africa, Olympio, who has an uncle living in Folsom, asked if he could live with him for his remaining high school years. His transition from living in Marseille in France to living in Folsom in America has gone quite smoothly. “At first it was a little hard, but everyone’s been so nice and willing to help me,” said Olympio, who speaks very good English and his accent is barely noticeable. “Everyone has been nice to me. If I need help the students, basketball coach and teachers are always willing to help. I like Folsom. Marseille is a big city like Sacramento and everyone pretty much walked everywhere, while here in Folsom everything is further away and you have to drive. It’s not as noisy as Marseille, though.” Olympio quickly noticed a difference in the American teenager too. “Everyone is more open here,” he said. “People would come up to me at school and ask me where I’m from and were friendly and wanted to get to know me. In France people that don’t know me wouldn’t approach me. It’s interesting.” Olympio enjoyed playing basketball in France, but never played organized ball until coming to Folsom. While it was obvious that he had a lot of talent and basketball skills when he arrived, Folsom basketball coach Mike Wall classified him as a raw talent. Learning to play the game on a team that runs offensive sets and different defenses was one of the hardest adjustments for Olympio. Because it took nearly all the preseason for him to come up to speed, he saw limited playing time early in the season. “It was really hard for me because I wasn’t used to all that,” Olympio said. “But my teammates and coaches helped me with that. Now I know what I have to do and where to go and what my job is.” Olympio said he didn’t feel comfortable with all that he needed to know until early in January. Since then, he’s blossomed for the Bulldogs, improving with each game, culminating in a breakout game against Jesuit on Jan. 27. Olympio scored 21 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and added two blocks. He scored Folsom’s first 13 points, didn’t miss a shot until the fourth quarter and also had a big dunk in the game, one of the few bright spots in Folsom’s 67-44 loss. “It’s been remarkable the improvement he’s shown over the last two months, let alone from back in August,” Wall said. “He was very raw with little experience playing competitive basketball. Tonight (against Sheldon) he did a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score. He did things that he wasn’t even willing to try to do a month ago. He’s under control now and much more confident, because he’s worked at it. He’s probably our hardest worker. He’s so driven to get better. He’s showing that he will get there and by next year I think you’re going to see something really special.” On a team with little size, Olympio is playing forward for the Bulldogs, although he said he’s more like a guard. His strength is his athletic ability and he says his game is taking the ball to the basket. “My job is to attack the rim and do what I can do,” he said. “We have a lot of shooters on the team so my job is to go strong to the basket. My goal for the rest of the season is to step up and show people what I can do. I’m feeling comfortable now and I just want to be good every time out. I want to be one of the best players on the team and keep improving.” Olympio has had a few dunks this season during games and said he absolutely loves dunking the basketball. “It feels good to do it in a game,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get one tonight. It just gets me into the game and makes me feel comfortable.”