Michelle Smith Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Feature: Oregon State's Talia von Oelhoffen
Talia von Oelhoffen had a week and a half to make a transition that most people experience over the course of milestone-filled months.
The Oregon State freshman guard was in high school just a few weeks ago, taking her classes online, missing out school activities and traditions, dealing with the reality that her final prep basketball season was likely not going to happen, and it definitely wasn’t going to happen the way she had imagined.
She probably couldn’t have imagined this scenario either, one in which she scrambled to finish enough classwork to graduate from high school a semester early, and with two days notice, relocating to Corvallis so that she could begin her college basketball career at Oregon State.
She’s living in a dorm. She has finally caught up in her college courses after starting the term a couple of weeks late. And she is contributing to a Beavers’ team that is looking for some resuscitation after a slow start to the Pac-12 schedule and a 29-day COVID pause.
“It’s like she’s been here forever,” said Oregon State coach Scott Rueck.
Von Oelhoffen is one of very small group of high school players who was able to join their college teams halfway through their final year of high school, and because of NCAA rules this season in which winter sport athletes will maintain a year of eligibility, they will have four years of college basketball remaining after the conclusion of this season.
“This wasn’t something I was sure I’d be able to do, but we found out it was a possibility,” von Oelhoffen said. “I knew my high school season wouldn’t happen. COVID had already taken away so much of my high school experience, I’d already missed out on so many things. I figured, I might as well do something that not a lot of people would get to do if it wasn’t for COVID.”
Von Oelhoffen, a five-star recruit from Pasco, Washington, did homework for a week and a half straight to finish out her last two classes. When she called Beavers coach Rueck on Wednesday to tell him she was done, he asked if she could be on campus by Friday. She was there, after making an emergency trip to Target with her mother to fill her dorm room.
“It’s just something that hasn’t been done,” Rueck said. “It’s been an amazing process, and she has fit right in. She practiced for two days and then she played against Washington State.”
And she played well. In 21 minutes, she finished with six points and four rebounds in an overtime loss. Her first basket was an NBA-length three-pointer.
“It’s like she is born to do it,” Rueck said. “And she is. She’s made it look easy. Her expectation is to be great.”
OSU has won three in a row since she arrived, and von Oelhoffen, whose father, Kimo, played in the NFL and whose mother played basketball at the University of Hawaii, has been a key part of each of those wins. She has scored in double figures in all three of those victories and is averaging 11.0 points and 3.8 rebounds a game. She has 16 assists and just 10 turnovers, and she is shooting 46 percent from the floor. They will need it all this weekend in a challenging homestand against No. 9 Arizona and Arizona State.
“It’s gone pretty smoothly,” von Oelhoffen said. “I wasn’t expecting to play against Washington State, but I knew I could play well. It’s been fun and it’s not really felt overwhelming. I’m enjoying it.”
Rueck said that von Oelhoffen will add to his team’s depth in the backcourt, and be another confident player to bring the ball up the floor. She will be a playmaker and a strong three-point shooter, supplementing the young talent already stacked up on the OSU roster.
People have asked her if she’s nervous or feeling a lot of pressure.
“You would think so, considering that I practiced twice before I played in my first college game, but I wasn’t nervous at all because there isn’t a lot of pressure on me. I’ve just been able to get out there and relax and play. It’s still basketball.”