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Pac-10 preview: Oregon State University

Prior to the commencement of the 2009-2010 college basketball season, Hoopism will profile various NCAA teams. Today, the third installment of the Pac-10 previews: the Oregon State Beavers.

by Daniel Uribe

Coming off their best season since the 1994-95 campaign, the Oregon State women’s basketball team is at a crossroads as they attempt to create a winning legacy and not move backwards in their progression towards the top of the standings in the Pac-10. But it will be difficult as the Beavers look to rebuild a team that has lost many of the players that got them there.

Led by fifth-year coach LaVonda Wagner, Oregon State emerged last year as a team to be reckoned with with a fourth-place conference finish, their best placing in 13 years. But the season will also begin without the experience that helped bring this team to that point. Graduating last May were senior leaders Brittney Davis, Mercedes Fox-Griffin and Tiffany Ducker. The team also lost Alex Mitchell — a powerhouse in the paint who led the conference in field goal percentage for a large part of the season — who transferred to North Carolina Central.

The team, despite losing a huge amount of experienced players, is determined to continue to grow and win and will be led by last year’s second leading scorer, Talisa Rhea, a junior guard out of Alaska who averaged 13.5 ppg and was third in the conference last season in three-point field goals made. She is on track this season to break the school record for three-pointers made in a career.

Rhea will need serious help the offensive end as the Beaver’s lost four of their five leading scorers from last season and players will have to emerge if they are to have the success they want. Expected to step up and provide some help on the offensive end will be two sophomores who displayed strong games during their freshmen campaigns, forward Kirsten Tilleman, and guard Brittany Kennedy. Tilleman is a 6’1″ forward who averaged 3.8 ppg and 4.1 rpg and has starting experience. Kennedy, a 5’7″ guard averaged 3.4 ppg and 2.2 rpg. Stacey Nichols, a 6’1″ senior forward and part-time starter last year, will be expected to provide valuable leadership despite only averaging six minutes of playing time per game last season.

Also returning will be Anita Burdick, a senior forward who is expected to pick up much of the slack on rebounding and senior guard Julie Futch.

The Beavers will have a large contingent of newcomers this year and among them include freshmen Tayler Champion, a 6’1″ guard/forward from Inglewood, CA; two-time Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year Kate Lanz, a 5’10 point guard; 6’2″ forward Amaya Gastaminza, from Pamplona Spain who has played for her country’s U-16, U-18 and U-19 teams; 5’8 guard Haiden Palmer from Moreno Valley, CA; and 6’1″ forward Angela Misa from Oceanside CA.

Also new to the team are JC transfers Eisha Sheppard, a 5’5″ guard out of San Bernardino Valley College in California; and El Sara Greer, a 6’2″ forward from Kirkwood Community College in Iowa.

Oregon State will open its season at home versus Cal Poly on Nov. 13.

(Daniel Uribe is a Los Angeles native, former reporter and Pac-10 expert).

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