For OSU women’s basketball, team chemistry is key to success

Michael Kiever Sports Reporter

OSU women’s basketball is putting it all together this season behind head coach Scott Rueck’s guidance

Six years ago, Scott Rueck planted a seed.

He didn’t know what would become of it, but knew that if he tended to it, worked with it, helped it grow, one day it would flower into a successful basketball program.

Following the Beaver’s first ever Pac-12 tournament championship, it’s safe to say the OSU women’s basketball head coach has cultivated something special.

Behind the senior class of 2016, OSU has now won two consecutive Pac-12 Conference titles and has a roster chock full of talented players, including seniors Jamie Weisner (reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year) and Ruth Hamblin (two-time Defensive Player of the Year). It has been arguably the most successful women’s basketball team in OSU history, and the season has yet to come to its conclusion.

Now at the peak of its powers, the OSU women’s basketball program has come along ways from its former self. When Rueck took over in July of 2010, OSU was hardly the sterling program that it has evolved into today. It’s been a long way to the top.

When Hamblin, Weisner and the rest of the current seniors were first recruited to OSU, they did not agree to come to Corvallis because it was already a Pac-12 powerhouse. That was evident by the fact that they only yielded a paltry 10-21 record in their first season. Because they stuck around to see Rueck’s vision out, however, a dynasty was born.

“It’s a completely different story. Like the turn of the page,” said Hamblin, regarding the transformation the team has been through since she first arrived. “I’d say the major key in our turnaround has been everyone setting aside their differences and buying into coach Rueck’s plan for us.”

From the start, Hamblin, Weisner, forwards Deven Hunter and Samantha Siegner would experience the growing pains of a young team on the rise. This continuity and commitment from the talented group has been the very heart of Rueck’s successful rebuilding plan. Success has been known to perpetuate itself, and that seems to be the path that the Beavers are currently headed down.

“I think continuity is everything. That’s how you build a culture,” Rueck said. “A culture builds, expectations build, and a system of operation builds.”

Also among the things that Rueck has seen build up in his tenure is the team chemistry. With a consistent coaching staff and set of players, the team has had time to bond and grow together. Relationships have been made, battles have been fought, and the team has evolved.

Junior guard Sydney Wiese, who was named to the All-Pac-12 team alongside Weisner and Hamblin, has witnessed this transformation first-hand. In addition to being an integral part of this year’s successes, Wiese was apart of the team that was bounced from the second-round of the Pac-12 Tournament last season. 

“We’ve had a lot of really tough losses that we’ve had to endure,” Wiese said. “We are just taking all the lessons that we’ve learned and the adversity that we’ve faced and using them for our benefit going into post-season play.” 

The highs and lows that the team has endured together has translated into on-court advantages for OSU. Having played her entire collegiate career with the seniors, Wiese has a special connection with them on the floor that few others possess.

“We know each other so well, we’re always just a step ahead. For example, whenever (Hunter) goes down to screen for Jamie, I sort of have a feeling that she’ll probably curl it,” Wiese said. “I know the right things to look at now in order to set people up better to score.” 

OSU’s kinship hardly stops off the court. Traveling, practicing and hanging out constantly with one another has led to something that transcends the sport. 

“I think off the court too, we just know each other. We really know how to handle each other’s personalities and how to get the best of each other,” Wiese said. 

“We’re all close and we all know each other very well, inside and out,” Hunter said about her teammates. “We know what each other’s needs are on and off the court.”

Rueck is hoping that the bonds that this team has made will bring post-season success. Last year, the Beavers were bumped in the Round of 32. Rueck believes prior shortcomings will only help when the season is on the line.

“The teams that win have that continuity and experience, no doubt. There’s no other way to recreate what it’s like to play at home in the NCAA tournament against a team that can beat you,” Rueck said. “Last year, we did it. We didn’t go as far as we wanted, but we learned a lot.”

Like a single sprout that eventually becomes a forest, Rueck has seen the team grow from the ground up into a beautiful spectacle. Now–with a full stock of team chemistry and experience– it’s time to see what this team can do.

“We’ve had all these experiences and I think we’re all fully veteran now,” Hamblin said. “Hopefully we can apply those lessons and come out on the other side this time.”

On Twitter: @michaelkievaaa

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