That tough loss to UCONN doesn’t take away from the fact that this was a heck of a season for the OSU women’s basketball team. Heck of a season is an understatement. It was really a magical one — 32 wins (school record), Pac-12 regular-season champs, Pac-12 Tournament winners, and a Final Four berth against arguably the most storied program in women’s sports.
Let all of that that sink in for a minute. And consider that Just six years ago, this program was in shambles in wake of the LaVonda Wagner era. Numerous players had transferred out, forcing first-year coach Scott Rueck to hold open tryouts.
And here the Beavers are now, coming off their third straight NCAA tournament appearance, cementing their status as one of the top teams not only in the Pac-12, but the nation. Sometimes, it seems so surreal. But make no mistake, the Beavers are here to stay under Rueck. He’s built a strong foundation and there’s nowhere to go but up.
Huge kudos to the amazing senior class of Jamie Weisner, Ruth Hamblin, Deven Hunter, and Samantha Siegner for all their hard work to build the framework and set the bar high for program for years to come. Each of them brought skill, toughness, leadership, teamwork, and heart to this team.
It was a treat watching Weisner blossom into one of the best players in the country, Hamblin develop into a defensive force, Hunter become a inside-out threat, and Siegner being a vital cog off the bench the past four years. They will be sorely missed next season, and that’s why there could be some growing pains next season as the Beavers adjust to life without this group.
But the future looks bright, even next year. Sydney Wiese should fill the scoring void left by Weisner. Katie McWilliams, who sank all three of her 3-point attempts against UCONN, can play PG, and allow Wiese to play more off the ball. Gabby Hanson will be the defensive stopper, a role she excelled in this season.
Post wise, Marie Gulich is only an inch shorter than Hamblin, and I think she is more athletic than Hamblin and has a lot of offensive upside. Defense will be the question. Who replaces Hunter is the biggest question for me… I’d love to see Kolbie Orum emerge. She’s a solid athlete and seems to be aggressive offensively. Tarea Green, a 6-4 post, will also be one to watch.
And then there’s the matter of that incoming recruiting class that features three ESPN Top-100 players in Mikayla Pivec (24), Katharine Tudor (57) and Madison Washington (91). While Weisner is irreplaceable, I can see Pivec playing a lot like Weisner did. And OSU is still in play for the No. 4 player in the country, Sabrina Ionescu. Of note is that her and Tudor are close. Landing her would be icing on the cake, and she’d probably be a Day 1 starter.
While Sunday didn’t end the way we’d hoped, let’s not get too down. Cherish the remarkable turnaround this program has made and celebrate the fact that the Oregon State Beavers now are a team to be reckoned with… It’s a great time to Beaver! (RW)