Marchbanks Gives OSU A Boost
By Kevin Danna
Passion. Excitement. Emotion.
If you played a game of word association, these words would be the most commonly connected to Oregon State senior Earlysia Marchbanks.
"I can't speak for anybody else, but I just have more to celebrate," said Marchbanks, a native of Salem, Ore. "I had a hard life growing up and so now that I'm on the court and finally made it D-I and I'm living my dream, every little thing matters to me and so I feel really excited."
Whenever the Beavers make a play, it's Marchbanks who gives her team that extra boost, whether it be a mini-celebration after she gets an offensive rebound put-back or a high-five and words of encouragement to a teammate who has just knocked down a three. It doesn't take long to notice that Marchbanks means more to her team than being one of the leading scorers and rebounders.
"She is a true leader by her personality and her influence with others," said Oregon State head coach Scott Rueck. "So this year, when we're playing with so many new personalities, she was able to step into that leadership role and be kind of a dominating presence that has brought everybody along and blended personalities."
Although Marchbanks is a senior, she is only in her second season at Oregon State after playing a year at both Central Arizona and Yakima Valley Community College before arriving in Corvallis. At first, there was a question as to whether she would actually wind up playing for Oregon State. Signing to play under former head coach LaVonda Wagner, Marchbanks would instead be suiting up for Rueck if she chose to remain a Beaver.
Luckily, she had a brother, Keista, who was there by her side to help her with the decision. Keista had also started out as a junior college athlete before making the transition to the NCAA level as a football player, and that experience was invaluable for his younger sister.
"I had my 100 percent total faith in him," Marchbanks said of her brother. "He was just like, 'Take a step back, look at all your options, and then decide for yourself what is the best option, because these are going to be the next two years of your life.' That was big for me."
Once Marchbanks met her potential coach-to-be Rueck, it was an easy decision to make: she was going to be wearing orange and black the next season.
"It was so perfect after I met Coach Scott and his family - his mom, his dad, his wife and his kids," she said. "It was just like there was no other option. I definitely wanted to come to Oregon State."
The result? A very productive two-year career in Corvallis. With performances such as her 22-point, 10-rebound effort in a victory over Utah earlier this season, Marchbanks has been more than just a key ingredient.
Being the team's leading rebounder might seem strange for someone who is just 5-foot-8. The undersized Marchbanks plays the "4" position for Oregon State, and while the Beavers run a four-guard offense, the Salem senior has to defend power forwards who can sometimes be seven or eight inches taller than her on the other end.
Nothing a little toughness can't handle.
"On the [defensive] end though, what allows her to compete against a true power forward, which in our conference can be anywhere from 6-foot-1 to 6-foot-4, is just her physicality," Rueck said. "She doesn't shy away from anybody. She is able to use her quickness to maintain and hold position against bigger players."
A year after finishing with nine victories, the Beavers have assured themselves of a winning season and are looking to play beyond the Pac-12 Tournament. Although it seemed a lofty goal in November, it has been Rueck's since the beginning of the season, and Marchbanks believed Oregon State could accomplish the feat from day one.
"Earlysia in one of our first team meetings this year told her teammates that my expectation is to make the postseason. I think everyone looked around the room and said, 'Really?'" Rueck said. "But she has not wavered from that."
And the Beavers have not wavered from their winning ways and are eligible for a postseason tournament. That means more games for Oregon State, and more reasons for Marchbanks to celebrate.
"You go to these games to see the best play," Rueck said. "You want to be inspired by what you see. You want to see things you don't normally see in everyday life, and she does that. She just plays with this crazy joy that we all love, so the more the better."