One in A Million : Sydney Wiese’s last dance with Oregon State

Amy Schwartz and Keenan Puncocher, Multimedia Contributors

Legacy, leadership, and the conference call that changed Beaver Nation

The first time Coach Scott Rueck spoke to Sydney Wiese, he questioned if he wanted to take on the challenge and effort it would require to make her a Beaver.

A conference call had been set up between Wiese, her parents, Rueck, and her AAU coach. Rueck had no interest in getting involved in the circus of conference calls. He wanted to talk to Wiese, her parents too. He wanted to get to know Wiese.

Forty-five minutes later the connection was made. Rueck calls it “magic.”

“They were looking for exactly what we are, exactly who we are, how we do things and you just knew we had a really special connection here,” Rueck said. “I think we meet every need they’re looking for. Once you hear those things, and it happens every once in awhile, you know this is going to be a really fun process and you just pray that it works out and we get her.”

When the Beavers finally got Wiese, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Wiese didn’t understand her head coach during her first two years and Rueck needed to forge a killer instinct inside her.

“(Wiese) is happy-go-lucky, she just wants to run around and shoot and play basketball and win while she’s having that fun,” Rueck said. “She’s not necessarily somebody that is just a killer. That is not her nature, she’s a sweet person with just the kindest heart you can imagine.

“There is a level of competitiveness that you have to get to here, to win at the highest level, where the nasty part of you has to come out a little bit and between those lines it’s not always the friendliness.”

Her sophomore year, Wiese and the team went through a tough stretch. She wrote Coach Rueck a letter and explained to him that he simply did not understand her. She brought it to his office and the two had a conversation.

Rueck had to explain to Wiese that he had been down the road before and to trust him. Rueck calls that meeting the most significant moment between him and Wiese during his tenure at Oregon State.

Once the two were finally on the same page, it would unleash one of the most dynamic duos in Oregon State women’s basketball history.

Impactful leadership

When the Beavers lost seniors Jamie Weisner and Ruth Hamblin last season, Wiese was stressed with the idea of stepping into the leadership role. The loss of five seniors was tough for Wiese to go through, but she knew she had to step up and step out of her comfort zone to fill the void.

“I knew it wasn’t going to just be on my shoulders but it was going to be a different leadership position than I had been in,” Wiese said. “I was going to have to step up and sort of be uncomfortable to make sure that other people were more comfortable. It’s been a beautiful journey and a great challenge and I’m so thankful to have been in that position.”

Wiese made it a priority to also connect with the freshman on the team. As a senior, she knew the transition away from home isn’t easy during that first year.   

“Mentally I had to remain outside of myself a lot,” Wiese said. “Usually I can do that pretty well but it was even more than I had realized. We had four new freshman on campus and I wanted to make sure that they were doing okay. I know exactly how they’re feeling, being homesick. There’s a lot that’s going on. I wanted to make sure that they were taken care of as best as I could as well as incorporating and building up the other people who have been here.”

Freshman guard Mikayla Pivec has spent her freshman year benefitting from Wiese’s leadership. Pivec has been molded this season by Wiese’s work ethic and has found a new found confidence from the senior guard. When Pivec was asked to describe Wiese’s leadership, she didn’t know where to begin.

“How many words do I get,” Pivec said with a giant smile. “She’s a leader and a program changer. Coming into this program, we hadn’t won a Pac-12 title in a while. Then she came in and helped lead the team to three straight and making deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. She makes everybody around her better. She’s a one of a kind player player and I’m glad I got the opportunity to spend at least one year with her.”

As her coach, Rueck has seen the benefits of Wiese’s leadership to his team. Wiese has a relationship with everyone on the team and tries to make everyone feel special.  

“She knows how to make them feel special, how to make them feel included and so from day one that has been there,” Rueck said. “That’s leadership in itself. You look at how she competes every day. And every day means getting shots up on her own when she comes into practice each day, the way she prepares herself mentally, you just know you can count on her. She’s been an incredible example from day one.”

Coach Rueck has seen a constant, impactful leadership from Wiese.

“She plays with a fearlessness,” Rueck said. “She is just out here to win, she doesn’t care who you are, what the situation is, she’s here to win that game because she believes she can and she’s going to do everything she can to be successful. The example she’s provided from the first minute she arrived has been incredible.”

Sydney and Scott : The Player and Coach Relationship

The relationship with Wiese and Rueck is a key piece at the core of the Beavers success. Coach Rueck has learned over his career that coaches can’t lead, they direct.

“If this team is playing for me, or because they’re scared of me, we’re doomed to fail,” Rueck said. “We will never reach our potential. This team wins, or any team wins because of interior leadership. The way (Weise) and (senior Gabby Hansen,) our two captains this year, lead this team, that is going to determine whether we achieve or not. If those two don’t have my back, we’re in trouble. That’s a recipe for failure. Syd and I, our relationship is as healthy and as good as I think any coach-player relationship can be.”

Through their four years, Rueck and Wiese have formed a unique bond. From challenging each other, to talking about each other’s lives, Wiese has taken the time to invest into Rueck’s life.

“I don’t think many college students understand that we’re people too,” Rueck said. “We have feelings and we have a lot to offer outside of what you see on the court. That’s a wisdom that she has. I’ve had a few students over the years in my twenty-one years now of doing this that have really taken the time to invest in me and those are the ones that I think get the best experience. It’s a pretty impressive maturity to get to that level. I think it’s absolutely vital and it has been, not just this year but I think Syd and my relationship has been key to what we’ve done here.

Over her past four years in a Beavers uniform, Wiese has changed Rueck as a coach.

“(Wiese) has given me a lot of confidence. This is a tricky job. It’s in high-def now because of Pac-12 Networks. It’s very emotional,” Rueck said. “There’s pressures all of us have to manage day in and day out. When you have a force like (Wiese) within your program in such a key role that understands you and has your back no matter what, it gives you confidence.”

The confidence that Wiese has instilled in Rueck has allowed him to be himself as a coach. He knows how vital Wiese’s stability is for the team.

“She has provided that stability from a player standpoint which is so vital for me and because of that I’ve been able to be myself and when I’m myself, you coach better than if you can’t be you,” Rueck said.  “Any time it gets heated with an official, there’s (Wiese) right there with me, she’s got her arm around me saying ‘coach it’s okay. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.’ She’s been my eyes and ears. She’s helped like an assistant coach.”

Cementing her legacy

As the Beavers prepare for the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Wiese hopes to take this team on a long run this post-season.

“It would be like a dream come true,” Wiese said. “As an athlete, you work out and prepare for those moments. You say to yourself, ‘Alright, you’re down one you have to make this free throw  for the National Championship Game.’ I’ve been saying that ever since I was a kid working out by myself,” Wiese said. “It would be amazing to be apart of this group’s journey to the National Championship. That would be a dream. I hope that we can do that together.”

When asked about how she wants to be remembered at Oregon State, Wiese said she wants to be remembered for the love and passion she brought to the game.

“The passion and the love that I brought for this university and for this game is the main thing that I would love to be remembered for. I’ve been so blessed with the people I’ve been surrounded by on the court and off the court.I know throughout this I’ve given absolutely everything that I’ve had to this university,” Wiese said. “The university has provided me with such a great foundation going forward into the rest of my life, after I’m done playing, after I graduate. I want everyone to know that I did everything with passion and with a positive spirit and I wanted to bring that love for the game, that love for this university to everyone that I was surrounded by.”

Coach Rueck thinks Wiese will go down as one of the best athletes in Oregon State history.  

“Legend. Flat out legend,” Rueck said “I think she’ll be remembered as well any person to ever graduate from here. That’s what I think and that’s saying a lot. I just got chills from saying that because I’ve been a fan of this place for forty-seven years now and I know who has come through here. I know who is hanging in the rafters and I know all the incredible athletes from every sport.  I’ve watched for years. I know who Terry Baker is and I know who Dick Fosbury is and I know who all those incredible men’s basketball players who have come through here are. Sydney has galvanized this community.”

Wiese’s impact reaches far and wide and because of it, Rueck believes she should be honored at Oregon State for a lifetime.

“For a female athlete to be one of the Top-25 Most Influential People in Oregon Sports as named by The Oregonian this year, to see Sydney Wiese on that list, isn’t that incredible?” Rueck said. “It would be a shame if she’s not in the rafters. I think if every single Beaver fan could put on a headband they would because of how well she’s represented them, what she stands for, and how good she is. You put that combination together, it’s one in a million. That’s what Syd’s done for all of us.”

Wiese will suit up in Gill Coliseum for the final time this weekend. When her time is done as a Beaver, Scott Rueck just wants to see her “happy”. He knows they will maintain their close bond, whether Wiese plays for another fifteen years or is in front of a camera

“I just want her in touch with me, that’s the big thing,” Rueck said. “I’m excited for her. This is a new adventure. I have a feeling she’s going to be in front of a camera at some point doing what she’s incredibly good at. Naturally amazing with a camera in her hand. She’s got a lot of lives to impact. I see her impact growing, and it’s immense right now, but I can see it growing even after Oregon State.”

On Twitter:@TheAmySchwartz, @Keenanpuncocher