Bendu Yeaney’s homecoming serves as catalyst for young Beavers
Coach Scott Rueck learned more than a decade ago not to load expectations onto his players. Yeaney may be an exception.
SAN FRANCISCO — Scott Rueck knows better than to cast undue expectations onto his players.
It’s a lesson the Oregon State women’s basketball head coach adopted during his 14-year stint as the head man at George Fox, the small Division III school tucked away in Newberg, Oregon, where he became the brilliant basketball mind he is today.
Entering the 2008 season, his second-to-last in Newberg, his roster harbored 10 true freshmen. It was a rebuilding year, or so you would have been led to believe.
The reality was quite the contrary.
Rueck’s Bruins went a perfect 32-0. Then they finished the job, bringing home a national championship.
More than a decade — and a Final Four run with the Beavers — later, Rueck still brings up those Bruins teams. Why? Not simply because they won, but because of the manner in which they did: by ignoring the expectations, or lack thereof, that so often cling to inexperienced players.
His first year in Corvallis only further drilled home that ethos. That 2010 team composed largely of walk-ons and unheralded recruits proved it was competitive enough to stay in games with the sharp-witted Rueck pacing the sidelines.
“Being competitive almost every night that season taught me not to limit anyone, to have high expectations for everyone in the program, whether it's their first year (or) their fourth year, to expect, well this is a year of their life,” he said. “I'm gonna expect you to perform to your capabilities, build you up, give you confidence, put you in situations to be successful, and build a system that fits that group.”
It’s a prudent lesson, because after a 17-14 finish last year ended a run of seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, this year’s team, complete with five freshmen and a pair of sophomores, is as young as they’ve come in Corvallis.
Rueck will draw on his past to guide him into the future.
“It just excites me to go into this year and see what we can do when there are some unknowns and there is some doubt,” he said. “I kind of feel like that's my wheelhouse in a way.”
There is one player though — a key acquisition made in the depths of an offseason in which the team lost four players to the transfer portal — who Rueck may have already draped lofty expectations over.
That’s the Portland native, guard Bendu Yeaney.