When Scott Rueck took over the BR-3 Oregon State women’s basketball team in the summer of 2010, he had no idea what lay ahead of him in his efforts to rebuild the program. Rueck had laid the groundwork which would turn George Fox University into a D3 powerhouse and making the move one hour south from Newberg to Corvallis wasn’t easy for the 1991 Oregon State alumnus.
“This was the only job I ever would have considered leaving George Fox for,” Rueck said. “We were happy (at George Fox). It took me 45 minutes standing at that copy machine in the office at George Fox and to push my contract on that fax machine and send it and say yes, because I knew my life would change forever, and I liked my life at the time.”
And who wouldn’t? During his 14 years in Newberg, Rueck lead the George Fox Bruins to seven NCAA D3 tournament appearances, including a national championship in 2009.[divider]
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By the time he arrived in Corvallis, however, he was tasked with taking over a program which went 11-20 overall and 2-16 in the Pacific 12 Conference (then the Pacific 10) and had to rebuild with a very limited roster during the 2010-2011 season.
“We returned El Sara Greer, a junior college transfer from Iowa,” Rueck said. “Along with her, we had another student who rejoined the program in Angela Misa, [who] played in just a few games as a freshman. Those were the two returners.”
Three freshmen would also comprise the core of Rueck’s first team, including an eventual four-year starter in Alyssa Martin. But, Rueck wasn’t done.
“We had an open tryout and we had four that we took from that open tryout,” Rueck said. “There were 55 people that came to try out. [Sage Indendi] started for two years for us. [Indendi] was also, ironically, someone who played for me at George Fox who had left my program after our championship year, came (to Oregon State) just by chance and then decided to come out for the team. We added then a soccer player and a volleyball player and that was our roster that first year.”
The Beavers took their fair share of lumps during that 2010-2011 season, finishing 9-21 overall and 2-16 in the Pac-10.
“It was an amazing thing to be a part of,” Rueck said. “I'll be honest, it was one of the most rewarding years I've ever spent coaching. That team played with everything they had.”
From there, things were trending up for the Beavers, who improved to 20-13 overall (9-9 Pac-10) the following season and qualified for the Women’s NIT. But, it was two years ago, during Sydney Wiese’s freshman year, in a home game against Notre Dame that brought the Beavers into the national consciousness.
“We had really competed that year,” Rueck said. “Notre Dame came in, our first game after Christmas, I believe it was December 29. And we had 5,000 people in Gill [Coliseum]. It was a TV game and we were down four with the ball with two minutes to go. Ruth [Hamblin] nearly had a triple-double that day. Kayla McBride had to play an incredible game to keep them close at half. But they knew how to win and we didn't down the stretch. And that was the day where everyone in this program, including our fans, everybody, said, wow, we have something special here. I think everybody saw themselves a little bit differently.”
Now, fresh off their first ever Pac-12 tournament championship, the Beavers are looking to capture another historic win in their quest to knock off the three-time defending national champion BR-1 Connecticut.
Junior guard Sydney Wiese (12.8 ppg, 5.7 apg) hit three of four foul shots in the final 33 seconds of the Beavers’ 60-57 win over BR-2 Baylor in the Elite Eight on Monday night, while senior Jamie Weisner (17.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and senior center Ruth Hamblin (11.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 124 blocks) have also made up the backbone of the team this season. Yet, other players have made big contributions as well.
The Beavers after their Elite Eight win over Baylor Monday, March 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy of OSU Athletics)
“Gabby Hanson (7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 apg) is a dynamic player that impacts the game in every way,” Rueck said. “She can play one through four, and if I needed her to play the five at 5’11”, she probably could. She brought scoring to us the other night, which she is absolutely capable of. She's just the consummate utility player. She can do it all. She usually draws the toughest defensive assignment, and she's also a great facilitator offensively.”
Senior power forward Deven Hunter (6.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg) is another of Rueck’s “unsung heroes” who is “capable of impacting the game” in every way.
“She's basically a point forward for us,” Rueck said. “The ball goes through her hands a lot, and then she has the ability to step out and knock perimeter shots down. When we beat Stanford here this year, she hit five threes, and it's not necessarily what she's known for, but it's something she's capable of doing.”
Oregon State also has gotten key contributions from sophomore center Marie Gülich, who has also stepped in at power forward, and senior forward Samantha Siegner, who has played both forward spots and center this season.
“That's what makes this team special,” Rueck said. “I think any team that's playing at this point of the year, you have a lot of different people that could rise and step up at different times and this team is certainly blessed with that. There’s a lot of versatility on this team.”
Can that versatility result in an upset of a program that’s out to rewrite the women’s college basketball history books? Considering that few outside of Corvallis gave Oregon State a chance to win the Pac-12, much less reach the Final Four, there’s no reason why they can’t.