For four seasons, Sydney Wiese handled the point guard duties for the Oregon State women’s basketball team, helping lead the Beavers to national prominence.
When Wiese’s eligibility ran out after the Beavers were eliminated from last year’s NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16, the Beavers had to find a new floor general to lead the charge.
Coach Scott Rueck turned to sophomore Mikayla Pivec at the start of the season, with some help from junior Katie McWilliams.
Neither player saw time at the position during their high school careers, though McWilliams did fill in for an injured Wiese a few games her first two seasons.
“It’s very similar stories to both of them, for both Mik and Katie,” Rueck said Wednesday as the Beavers were preparing to face No. 24 Stanford at 6 p.m. Friday night.
“Neither of them had played since middle school at the point and to get to the Pac-12 and then be asked to run the one, it’s unique. But they have such a unique skill set that provides such dynamic qualities to it.”
Both have seen time there this season, along with Aleah Goodman, a freshman who was the starting point guard for La Salle Prep, which won the 5A state title last year at Gill Coliseum.
All three bring different skill sets to the position.
Rueck said McWilliams sees the floor incredibly well and Pivec has the ability to attack and draw defenders and then create either to score or to pass.
The biggest change for Pivec and McWilliams is the mental approach and leadership side to the position.
“There’s still a learning curve there about what exactly that person does in each moment and how important it is,” Rueck said. “I think when you say ‘you’re the Syd,’ that puts it in context for them. That’s the one they played with and they remember that calming impact that Sydney had when she had the ball on her teammates and now that’s your role, that’s your role right now. They’ve both stepped into roles and provided that for us and they’ve done incredibly well.”
McWilliams said she is happy to play the point or any other position the team needs.
“I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with it, just handling the ball,” she said. “That’s been the biggest thing is just handling the ball. I see the court pretty well with my size and my length but just being able to handle the ball and getting the offense started has been the biggest thing I’ve had to work into.”
For the most part, Pivec has been asked to run the point the most this season, but Rueck did put McWilliams in that position against Oregon two weeks ago. They have continued to share time there along with Goodman.
“I think that makes us tough,” Rueck said. “Great teams have multiple players who can play the one and we’re fortunate to have several who can. I think it’s just game, situation, what’s best and roll with it.”
While there has been a steep learning curve for all three, Rueck said he has been pleased with the progression all three players have made throughout the course of the season.
“Katie’s ability to see the floor is probably the best I’ve ever coached,” he said. “Mik’s ability to attack and draw defenders and maintain the ball and find the open player, I don’t know how many I’ve coached better at that. Aleah is right in line with Katie in terms of kick-ahead passes.”
And they have all helped the Beavers develop into a team that can get out in transition and put up a ton of points.
And they make sure to get everyone involved, especially when senior center Marie Gulich runs the floor.
“If your post is going to run you better get them the ball,” Rueck said “You want to reward that effort and this team has the ability to do that. Our offensive numbers are up from a year ago and it’s a dynamic group and they’re really unselfish and it starts at point guard position, of course.”