‘Remarkable’ is the word Oregon State coach Scott Rueck used when describing what Talia von Oelhoffen was able to accomplish in a condensed “freshman” campaign this past season.
With high school basketball not being played in Washington state this past year due to the pandemic, von Oelhoffen decided it would be beneficial for her to forgo her final semester of high school and enroll early with the Beavers, whom she had already signed with back in November, 2020.
After just two practices, von Oelhoffen, a 5-11 guard, took the court against Washington State and immediately made her presence felt by canning a 3-pointer on her first collegiate shot attempt.
She went on to average 11.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, helping her team make a strong push down the stretch that led to an NCAA tournament berth when it looked like there was little hope of that accomplishment, following a five-game losing streak in an Oregon State season disrupted multiple times by COVID-19 protocols.
And she received honorable mention to the all-Pac-12 freshman team.
“There are certain things that no matter what we do as teachers and coaches you cannot replicate – playing against (former Stanford standout) Kiana Williams, playing against (Cardinal standout) Anna Wilson, playing against South Carolina’s guard – there’s … just no way to replicate it,” Rueck said at the Pac-12’s media day this past week in San Francisco.
Von Oelhoffen certainly was thrown to the wolves, as Rueck likes to say. It was a learning experience to say the least, but one that has von Oelhoffen a step or two ahead of most freshman.
“I think playing at this level is definitely something that you can’t really, you don’t really know until you experience it,” she said at media day. “So having that experience going into my freshman year is a blessing. And I feel like, I don’t know, I just learned a lot of lessons from it, and it’s really going to help me going into my freshman year already having that experience.”
Maybe the most important aspect of playing last season – she didn’t lose any eligibility, as the NCAA granted every player an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic – was the opportunity to play with and learn from the Beavers’ unquestioned leader last season, senior guard Aleah Goodman.
“Just to be able to play behind Aleah Goodman and just learn from her and just the leadership that she showed on the team and just her skill at the point guard position, just being able to watch that up close and get to go against it in practice every day made me a lot better as a player,” von Oelhoffen said. “So having that going into this year, it was super special.”
While there were plenty of positive moments, not everything was a bed of roses, as would be expected. But being able to endure those tough moments will only help von Oelhoffen in her progression as a leader and key contributor the next four seasons.
“I thought Talia did a fantastic job taking those lessons last year, which were a lot of positives but also some tough ones, and being honest with (herself) and saying OK, this is where I need to go in my game and then applying those lessons,” Rueck said.
“She’s in the best shape of her life. Now she’s understood where she needs to go, so that was a massive advantage for her going into this year. And she’s handling those things really well and is better prepared for it. So what a great example she was for all of us on how to handle adversity and then flourish with it, and now grow from it.”
Despite already playing half a season, von Oelhoffen is still a freshman in eligibility and is part of a three-payer class that has the potential to play major roles over the course of their careers at Oregon State.
In addition to von Oelhoffen, fellow guards Greta Kampschroeder and AJ Marotte will likely be called upon this season to fill the void of losing Goodman, who chose to forgo her additional year and was drafted by the Connecticut Sun in the third round of the WNBA draft, and standout freshman Sasha Goforth, who decided to transfer back home to Arkansas.
“They’re three dynamic players that you could make an argument that those are three people that could easily be four-year starters in their college career,” Rueck said. “They have athleticism, they have strength and they have skill and … character through the roof. They’re amazing teammates.”
While von Oelhoffen has a similar game to former Beaver All-American Jamie (Weisner) Scott, Rueck said the 6-0 Kampschroeder, a McDonald’s All-American, has a little Mikayla Pivec and a little Kat Tudor to her game.
She scored 1,735 points and grabbed 853 rebounds in her high school career and averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds her senior season at Naperville North in Illinois.
“For those of you who’ve been watching us, those are big compliments and, not to put pressure on her, but that’s the best way to describe her,” Rueck said. “She’s a catch-and-shoot-first player that has the ability to take you off the dribble, mix it up, fight for every rebound, just like Mik used to. I mean that’s an impactful person.”
Marotte, a former Washington recruit that decided to de-commit when the Huskies made a coaching change, was a four-time Texas 6A all-state selection and finished her career with 1,860 points and 1,132 rebounds.
Rueck said the 6-1 Marotte has the same level of athleticism Goforth displayed last season.
“But she’s filling that void, and that’s a great defender, a rebounder, unbelievable mid-range pullup and then knocks down open threes as well,” he said.