Oregon State women's basketball embracing change as it welcomes several new faces
Oregon State women's basketball coach Scott Rueck is not afraid of change.
“Historically, I’ve never minded a lot of new faces and I’ve had lots of success in years where that’s been the case,” Rueck said Tuesday. “We have lots of new faces, lots of optimism and I like this group a lot.”
It’s a good thing that Rueck is a change-embracer. His program faces plenty of it this season, with seven new players and the return of only one full-time starter from last year’s team that missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
“This is year 27 for me as a head coach,” Rueck said. “A couple of my most successful years as a D-III coach, I had 10 true freshmen. One went to the Elite Eight, one went 32-0 and won a National Championship. Coming into Oregon State with walk-ons in year one, being competitive almost every night that season taught me not to limit anyone, to have high expectations for everyone in the program, whether it's their first year, their fourth year.”
Talia von Oelhoffen will be the centerpiece, the sophomore guard in her third season after being an early-enrollee two seasons ago. She is the team’s leading scorer and its heart-and-soul.
And then there is 6-foot-9 Jelena Mitrovic, one of the tallest players in the country, who has struggled with knee injuries throughout her career, but could determine the Beavers’ ability to compete against some of top best post players in the conference.
“This is really the second year of her life that she's been able to actually play basketball where you can get down low and you can jump and you can play on balance,” Rueck said. “So it's just amazing for us who have been in the gym with her for a while to watch her evolve and learn how fun this game is.”
A key addition is Arizona transfer Bendu Yeaney, the Portland, Oregon native. For Yeaney, who started 29 games and averaged 6.3 points a game for the Wildcats last season, this is her third Division I program. But a return home is just what she needed.
“I've been more and more confident and now I'm back in my comfort zone being in Oregon, so I'm the most confident I've ever been in my life,” Yeaney said. “All my experiences obviously have been good and everything has been God's plan, and I'm happy that I ended up where I needed to end up.”
Rueck believes his team has talent, character and leadership to go with size and strong guard play.
“So as a teacher, it just excites me to go into this year and see what we can do when there are some unknowns and there is some doubt most likely,” Rueck said. “I kind of feel like that's my wheelhouse in a way. For that reason, I'm very excited.”