Former Oregon State guard Mikayla Pivec named a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year

In this file photo from January 2020, OSU senior guard Mikayla Pivec (#0) looks to find a teammate while running a play against Stanford sophomore guard Lexie Hull (#12) at Gill Coliseum on Jan. 19. Pivec has since graduated from Oregon State, was drafted 25th overall by the Atlanta Dream in the 2020 WNBA Draft, and is nominated for the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Laura Galceran, Sports Contributor

Former Oregon State Women’s Basketball guard Mikayla Pivec has been named one of the nine finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award– an honor given to recognize excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership. 

For Beaver fans, this nomination might not come as a shock. Pivec has stood out on and off the court for the past four years at Oregon State. The 5-foot-10-inch guard from Bellevue, Washington led the women’s basketball program in her time as a player with record-setting accomplishments, such as breaking Oregon State’s mark for rebounds in a career with 1,030 and finishing top ten in school history in scoring and assists.

But although her college career led to her being selected 25th overall in the 2020 WNBA draft by the Atlanta Dream, fans of Pivec now have to travel overseas to a little Spanish town called Logroño if they want to find the former Oregon State star.

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Before setting her sights on the pros, however, Pivec had plans to finish her college basketball career on a high note. But those plans began to change this past March 12 when the NCAA canceled men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was tough not being able to play another game in Gill, not being able to finish on a high note as a senior,” Pivec said. “This is what we’ve spent seven months of this year on, the past four years trying to make this moment.”

Although Pivec did not have the opportunity to finish her career at Oregon State by playing her senior NCAA Tournament, her performances on the court during the past four years had demonstrated that she was capable of playing professionally. Being a prospect for the 2020 WNBA draft, Pivec’s disappointment at the cancellation of winter sports lessened on April 17, when the Oregon State senior was selected by the Dream in the third round. 

But while Oregon State fans were getting excited to watch Pivec play at the professional level, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to set barriers for the Beavers’ star. Due to the health crisis, training camp in the WNBA was canceled, and Pivec chose to opt-out for the 2020 season. However, with basketball still being played across the globe, Pivec set out overseas with the goal of getting invited to a training camp for next season and trying to compete for a roster spot.

Having several options around Europe, Pivec decided to sign professionally for Club Deportivo Promete, which competes in the Liga Femenina Endesa, the first Spanish women’s basketball league. Pivec’s current team is located in a small town named Logroño in northern Spain.

“A lot of learning experiences, from the language to learning how to drive a stick shift,” Pivec said, smiling. “The first couple days driving it people were yelling at me because I would kill my engine and get stuck, so that was kind of embarrassing.”

The United States basketball player has had to adjust to many cultural differences at her new home, from eating late dinners to overcoming language barriers. 

“My head coach doesn’t speak any English. I learn by watching. The coach says to do a drill and everybody is ready to do it, and I’m like okay what are we doing?” Pivec said.

However, Pivec mentions that adapting to a new lifestyle is helping her grow both as a player and athlete. She is also expanding her basketball skills through improving in different areas of her game. Having been raised in an American training style, Pivec is experiencing a new way to approach sports. 

“Here they focus more on skill and quickness. In America, they focus more on strength, speed and athleticism. Here is more tactical,” Pivec said. 

Even while entering life as a professional basketball player, Mikayla Pivec can’t help but resist a sense of nostalgia when she looks back at her four-year journey at Oregon State. 

“I would have stayed. I loved my time at Oregon State,” Pivec said. 

During that journey as a Beaver, Pivec was not only able to maximize her time as an athlete, but also as a person. Her accomplishments outside the court are what helped her become a nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year. In only four years, Pivec finished her undergraduate in BioHealth Sciences and obtained a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Biophysics. Furthermore, beyond having leadership positions as a captain of the basketball team, she was also the chair at the Community Service Board of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. 

With the help of former Beavers’ guard Destiny Slocum, Pivec founded Beavs CARE (Corvallis Athletes Reaching Everyone), a platform designed to bring Oregon State student-athletes together for service initiatives. She also contributed to other projects such as the DamWorthIt campaign, which focuses on mental health awareness. Her efforts on giving back to the community show Pivec’s interests beyond basketball. 

“Your sport is not always going to be how you wanted it to. So having outlets where you can invest in other people and find value outside of sport is really important to do,” Pivec said.

Despite being on another continent, one with a nine-hour time difference to the West Coast where she played for four years, Pivec can not wait for the college basketball season to start on Nov. 25. 

“I’ll be watching their games even through the Spanish time zone difference,” Pivec said with excitement. “I will still watch the game even if it’s at 4 a.m. and no game day the next day.”

The Oregon State alumna is eager to watch the team compete this year and to see the impact of the incoming players, such as Ellie Mack and Jovanna Subasic. Pivec also mentioned her excitement for Taya Corosdale to be back from an injury last year, and of course to watch Aleah Goodman lead the team in her senior year. 

“I think they are going to be successful,” Pivec said. “[But] they will need to be ready to adapt to anything and be okay with things changing. They will have to come in each day with the mindset to get better and control what they can control.”

The NCAA will announce its 2020 Woman of the Year award winner on Friday, Nov. 13. The ceremony will be broadcast by ESPN and the NCAA Twitter.

An Oregon State athlete has never received this award before; Mikayla Pivec would be the first. She feels honored to represent Beaver Nation through this nomination and, although she won’t be able to play for the school anymore, she is willing to continue to help out at OSU in any possible way. 

“I will definitely stay committed as a fan and be there to support any future basketball player or athlete that wants to be part of the program,” Pivec said.