OSU's Dixon, Indendi Reflect On Time Away From Basketball

by Lara Boyko

There are moments in a basketball game that are unforgettable.

"When I went out there, my arms and knees were shaking and every time I got the ball I just wanted to get rid of it because I didn't want to mess up," said Oregon State redshirt freshman Jenna Dixon of her court time playing against Long Beach State at the beginning of the season.

Dixon's first-game nervousness this season is probably what a lot of new players to the collegiate level experience. Considering that she is on the team after sitting out last season, and then having a successful tryout for first-year head coach Scott Rueck, this was memorable.

"I did not have any desire to play basketball and just wanted to come to Oregon State to go to school, earn my degree and have fun," said Dixon. "Once I started to get in the groove again, remembered that I knew how to play the game and I was successful before, it felt natural again. It felt like nothing else feels better than holding a basketball. I can't really explain the feeling of having basketball be real again and being able to do something I absolutely love."

Dixon is not alone in having this same sense of euphoria for the sport. Her teammate Sage Indendi, a 5-foot-9 redshirt sophomore, is also enjoying moments on the court again after voluntarily sitting out last year.

"There's something special about this sport, as it gives me a comfort zone," said Indendi, who finished the season with 10.7 points per game (second best on the team) and 34.2 minutes per game. "That's part of the reason I had to step away as I needed to step out of my comfort zone and be able to be comfortable in other parts of my life. To be able to accomplish that and then come back to the game has enhanced every part of my life. If I were to play basketball again, that was the goal - it was because I loved to play, was passionate about it and needed to play again."

Indendi, like Dixon, played intramurals last year while at Oregon State and was part of a tryout that attracted 55 basketball hopefuls. As one of four players who made the cut in the tryout, she is enjoying a second chance at basketball and playing for Rueck.

"I had enough time away from basketball to wonder if it was ever going to be part of my life again," said Indendi. A couple of coaches had contacted me about coming back and playing for them. This planted the seed in my mind that basketball was a reality again for me. After being away from it for so long, you wonder if you can even dribble any more. After everything happened here and Scott was hired it was an easy decision. The only person I wanted to play for again was Scott. How could I have not tried to play again when he was at the school?"

Indendi played for Rueck two years ago at Division III George Fox where she helped the program win a National Championship and was named the D3Hoops.com Rookie of the Year. After her freshman year she transferred to Oregon State to get a fresh start. As fate would have it, that fresh start would be with a familiar coach which may make her the only player in NCAA history to have played for the same coach at two different schools during her eligibility period.

"She came in and it was pretty obvious right away that her skill level put her into our top five," said Rueck of Indendi. "She became our shooting guard and has been there all year. She has done a great job of surviving and is not the most gifted athlete, but is a cerebral player. She probably has the highest IQ of all the players I coached in my 14 years at George Fox. She finds ways to survive and can shoot the ball."

Even though Indendi had some familiarity with coach Rueck's style, it was never a given that she would make the Oregon State team.

"I wasn't sure if it was even worth it for me to come to the tryout and he said he wasn't sure if there was even going to be a tryout," said Indendi of her conversations with Rueck before the tryout. "It was like walking on a tight rope where I had no idea what was going to happen. I had to try out like everyone else and it was a long and torturous process."

The process has worked out for both Dixon and Indendi. They have now completed a full season of playing in the Pac-10 and are back in a familiar situation.

"It felt like déjà vu to look over at the bench for direction and I was really looking at coach Rueck," said Indendi. "There's always those flashes of it brought me back to Fox, but then I would look around and realize I am in this massive legendary gym with this brand new team and it was exciting."

"I feel like a little kid in a candy store again," said Dixon. "Nothing in the world matters to me when I am on the court. I am going to school, getting my life together and doing something I absolutely love. Even if I am having the worse day of my life, I go to practice or a game and everything vanishes. This is how much I love this sport."

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