Oregon Local News – STEADY AS SHE GOES
CORVALLIS Oregon State had finished off UCLA at Gill Coliseum in a Sunday battle of top-20 teams, and Bruins coach Cori Close was asked the secret to OSU’s success this season.
After all, it was suggested, the Beavers had lost All-America seniors Ruth Hamblin and Jamie Weisner off their team that reached the Women’s Final Four a year ago.
“Hamblin’s a great player; Weisner’s a great player,” Close said. “But look back. We beat them by 20 points last year when Sydney Wiese was out. Then we lost to them twice after that with Wiese. We did beat them at our place this year with her, but they won again today, and who’s the common denominator? Sydney Wiese.
“She’s not only a very skilled, high-IQ, great player, but she’s a leader, a culture builder, an elite competitor. She puts the team above herself. Why have they been able to stay so steady this season? Scott (Rueck) is a great coach, they have a really healthy culture, and they have Sydney Wiese.”
The Beavers wouldn’t have gotten past UCLA if not for the talents of Wiese, the 6-foot senior point guard who was subject to in-your-face defense and double-teams all afternoon. Wiese was only 3 for 9 from the field 2 for 7 from 3-point range but she managed 10 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in 36 dutiful minutes. During the postgame media session, it was noted that she finished one assist shy of her second career triple-double.
“I was pretty close to a quadruple-double,” she said, including her eight turnovers. “Should I have gone for that? Would it be historic?”
Later, Rueck joked, “She was on a mission to get that quadruple-double.”
In reality, Wiese’s mission is to make the world a better place. She seems to be doing a pretty good job at it.
When the Beavers visited the Valley of the Sun to play Arizona State in early February, they bussed to the Wiese residence for a team dinner. It was the second time Wiese’s parents, Troy and Patti, had played host to their daughter’s college team.
“We went straight from the airport to the Wiese home,” Rueck says. “It was a wonderful night, and such a neat thing to be together with all those people.”
“We had a blast,” Patti Wiese says. “It was great to have them all there. We were thankful they could arrange to do that. It worked. We had a houseful. It was fun.”
The best thing about the evening, Rueck says, was a visit to Sydney’s childhood bedroom.
“It should be a basketball shrine,” he says. “It was neat for her teammates to get to know her more intimately that way.”
Since turning to basketball as a grade-schooler, Wiese has kept every pair of sneakers she has worn. She has also saved every basketball she has used. Somehow, they’ve all fit in her bedroom, along with plenty of other items.
“Over the years, we let her do her thing in there,” Wiese’s mother says. “There are a lot of posters of people who inspired her. On the wall are a lot messages to herself one or two words.
“She’s a saver. When we got a new bed, there had to be 20 basketballs underneath (the old one). After she went to college, I decided to take stuffed animals off the shelf, and I put some of the basketballs up there and alternated them with her shoes.”
“For some reason,” Sydney says, “people are always excited to go up to my room. It really does tell a story of my journey as a person. It’s fun to go back and see all the memories I’ve accumulated over the years and share it with my best friends.”
The evening, she says, “was emotional for me. I had all these incredible people in my life all in one spot my home. It was fun. We had a lot of great conversations and laughter.”
A four-year starter and the Arizona Player of the Year as a senior at Pinnacle High, Wiese was ranked the 56th best player in the country by one scouting service. She narrowed her choices from a bevy of scholarship offers to eight schools OSU, Oregon, Indiana, Iowa State, Rutgers, Louisville, Utah and Stanford.
“I was going to take (the maximum) five official visits,” she said. “That’s what my club coach told me to do.”
Wiese took her first visit to Corvallis and decided it was the only visit she would take, committing to the Beavers.
“I knew this was where I wanted to go,” she says. “It was a gut feeling. The people I was interacting with not just on the team, but people in the community convinced me. They said, ‘You’ll love it here. We bleed orange and black, and it’s such a family atmosphere,’ which is what I wanted to be a part of.”
Rueck was in his third season at Oregon State, the Beavers on their way to a 10-21 season. They had not yet made the NCAA Tournament under Rueck.
“I was drawn to the underdog role,” Wiese says. “I wanted to help build a legacy in a place that maybe couldn’t have dreamed of before. I wanted to be surrounded by people you want to work hard for that was the coaching staff and my teammates. I believed in Coach Rueck’s vision. Everyone who committed here my year did. We all made it happen.”
Rueck made Wiese a focal point of his recruiting that year.
“Syd had everything in place in terms of skill set,” he says, “and I loved her mind-set on the court. She wanted the ball in big moments. She played with a passion. She was somebody you loved watching play.
“Then getting to know her, she has the highest character you can imagine. Who wouldn’t want her in your program? As soon as I got to know her and her family, it was a no-brainer. We had to have her.”
During the recruiting process, Rueck won over Wiese’s parents, too.
“Looking at all the options, we wanted her to go to Oregon State,” says her father, a grade-school teacher who served as head coach at Pinnacle during her senior season. “It wasn’t like we had relatives there. We’d never even been to Oregon. But we knew Coach Rueck was going to be there. He was an alumnus. He had all these young players. We knew she could be point guard right away. There are so many people who go to the ‘glamour school’ and then they transfer.
“The people at Oregon State are awesome. The town of Corvallis is awesome. It’s been a great four years.”
During Wiese’s four years at Oregon State, the Beavers own a record of 105-24, including 57-11 in Pac-12 play. They are in position to win their third straight conference regular-season championship. Wiese will be a member of the first senior class in program history to reach the NCAA Tournament all four years.
“That’s pretty damn good,” Wiese says with a smile. So has been her individual performance.
Wiese is the Pac-12 career record-holder for 3-point baskets at 345. She is a lock to become the 13th player ever to make the all-Pac-12 first team four times. Wiese ranks seventh on the OSU career scoring with 1,678 points and has a chance to move up to No. 3, behind only Tanja Kostic and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Carol Menken-Schaudt. On Sunday, she became the school career record-holder in assists with 585.
“It shows the talent I’ve been surrounded by all four years people who can finish plays,” she said graciously afterward. “I’m thankful for the people I can share it with. A shout-out to all those people who I’ve given assists to over the years.”
Wiese is one of 19 players on the midseason watch list for the Dawn Staley Award, given to the nation’s outstanding guard. She also is on the short list of candidates to succeed Weisner as the Pac-12 Player of the Year, ranking among the top 10 in the conference in many statistical categories, including scoring, assists, 3-point percentage, 3-point shots made, free-throw percentage and assist/turnover ratio.
“Syd has been phenomenal,” Rueck says. “It took awhile for everybody to calibrate what all of their roles were without the leaders from last year. She’s been leading since the day she got here, but what does that mean now? She tried to facilitate early, and maybe defer to a fault.
“After our Marquette loss (on Nov. 22), she found that niche be aggressive, and at the same time, get other people going. She has carried the weight of productivity. She has played huge in the biggest moments. She has done what the great seniors do rise to the occasion and been on the same trajectory as Jamie was last season.”
Nobody knows Wiese better than Gabby Hanson, her backcourt mate and roommate the past four years.
“Syd is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met,” Hanson says. “She cares about others. She always puts others before herself. She is the type of person who will ask you how your day is, without wanting anything back from you. She genuinely wants to see how you are.
“That’s part of what makes her such a great teammate and person. She is very close with her family. She probably talks to her mom or dad on the phone three of four times a week. She is a spiritual person. She spends a lot of time reading the Bible and trying to live her life in a faithful way.”
Patti Wiese, an administrator at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Scottsdale, says her daughter always had a maturity about her.
“You know how teenagers go through that snotty stage?” Patti says. “Neither of our kids went through that. Syd got a little bit snitty as a pre-teen, but it was short. She is very sincere and caring and outgoing. She blossomed while doing her own thing.
“We always told our kids not to follow the crowd, to dance to your own beat. From an early age, she was always focused on basketball. That was her dream.”
Older brother Christian, now 6-3 and 230 pounds, was never a ballplayer.
“He is a singer and performer,” their mother says. “He did show choir performances in high schools and has done some local theater.
“He didn’t do sports in high school, but he is athletic and is training to be a professional wrestler. He grew up watching it, and that’s now his dream.”
Hanson thinks Sydney has become the player she is because of her work ethic.
“She is constantly perfecting her craft,” Hanson says. “Her energy is what propels her to be as great as she is. As much as she scores and does amazing things, it’s never out of a selfish mind-set. She is always wanting to do what’s right for the team sacrificing any way she can so we’ll win.”
Says her father: “Syd has a never-say-die attitude. She had that since fourth or fifth grade. She has come a long way in terms of taking it home with her if she has a bad game. Now she’s better at it than us. She can get over it, and that’s been important to her success.”
Wiese’s leadership qualities have helped the Beavers maintain their course this season.
“As a point guard, you’re going to be the leader because the ball is in your hands most of the time,” Hanson says. “Not only that, but Syd is an amazing voice on our team. She’s someone any of our teammates can go to for advice, because she’s so open and welcoming. They trust she’ll give them a great answer, because she wants to see them succeed.”
There is another side to Wiese her playful manner.
“Syd can be really goofy,” Hanson says. “People out there in Beaver Nation might not know that, but she’s one of the most laid-back, goofiest people you can meet. She says, ‘I still need to become an adult.’ She’s kind of a child. She’s very intense on the court, but not at all off it. She’s like a class clown a total jokester. She always wants to keep the mood really light.”
Wiese laughs when told of Hanson’s observation.
“I am very childlike,” she says. “I love to keep it lighthearted and fun. Life is too short. I like telling stupid jokes. I get that from my dad. My whole family is that way, really. I love to make people laugh. There are times when you have to take it a little more serious and figure out what you’re doing with your life, but I love to go with the flow.
“My faith helps with that. I trust there’s a bigger plan than what I might set forth for myself. I trust God will lead me wherever I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to enjoy the ride and enjoy the relationships I make, too.”
A security guard passes in the hallway outside the locker room.
“Have a good day,” she tells him. “Great work this weekend.”
“I’m here ’til 10,” the security guard says.
“Well, you’re almost there,” Wiese says. “Keep working hard.”
Then she has another thought about her time at Oregon State.
“On and off the court, this place has developed me more so as a person than a basketball player,” Wiese says. “I’m looking to play basketball as long as I can to prolong adulthood, you could say. But who I’ve been surrounded by here, including my professors and the people in the community, have helped develop me into a better person.”
Wiese will graduate next month with a 3.6 GPA and a degree in speech communications. Last week, she was notified she has made the dean’s list. After her playing days are over, she would love to be a broadcaster. No surprise to members of the media, who enjoy her as an engaging personality and a go-to person for interviews.
“In broadcasting, you get to tell stories,” Wiese says. “You get to interact with people. I’ve shadowed at the Pac-12 Networks a couple of times, to learn what they do behind the scenes in order to make the sporting event a story.”
Rueck is thankful to have coached Wiese, as much for the person as the player.
“Syd is somebody who is always herself,” he says. “You see the core of who she is every minute. That level of authenticity is so uncommon. There’s this joy about her that makes every room she’s in better.
“That’s what she has done here for four years. She brings a class and level of integrity and passion that is so infectious. You can’t wait to see her and be around her. Every day, she’s the same, without exception. It’s really special.”
Hamblin, who is playing professionally in Australia this winter, will soon begin her second season with the WNBA Dallas Wings. Weisner, who is playing in Austria, has signed with the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks. Wiese will soon join them, a projected first-round draft pick. Who is the best player Rueck has coached?
“That’s a tough one,” he says. “It would be hard to say anybody’s above her. She might have a couple next to her.”
Wiese is mindful that her college career is nearing a denouement. She is trying to allow herself to smell the roses.
“Your senior year is weird,” she says. “You have to balance your emotions with being focused on the moment. On game days, I typically don’t like looking at the crowd. I’m so focused on what needs to be done.
“But this year, I’ve been telling myself to try to balance that, especially when I was home in Arizona. I’ve wanted to soak that moment in and see all the people who showed up for us, and truly bask in it. I’ve been trying to milk the time I have left as much as I can. “You only have this platform for so long. It’s very nostalgic. I don’t even know what it’s going to be like when it’s done. It’s been a blast. I’m thankful I can share it with all these incredible people.”
So are her parents.
“We wanted her to end up at a place where she was happy and around good people,” Patti Wiese says. “For her to have that happen at Oregon State has been amazing.
“One of her coaches along the way once told her, ‘Don’t try to be the next Diana Taurasi. Be the first Sydney Wiese.’ That was so powerful. Syd wanted to go somewhere where she could make a difference and help turn the corner for somebody.”
Mission accomplished, for sure.