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Paul Danzer On College Hoops: 'I don't know how to feel,' women's basketball coach Rueck says

PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Oregon State guard Aleah Goodman reacts after hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Oregon.

A day after learning that their season will end without an NCAA Tournament, Oregon State women's basketball coach Scott Rueck and players Mikayla Pivec and Aleah Goodman expressed sadness. But each said on Friday that they understand the need to shut down the tournament given the threat posed by the coronavirus.

"It's still hard to comprehend right now," Pivec, a senior, said during a teleconference with media. "I think as we learn more and more, we'll start to have some more closure."

Rueck used "numb" to describe his initial reaction to the cancellation, even though he expected it once the NBA shut down on Wednesday night.

"I didn't know how to feel. I was sad. I was angry, all these things," Rueck said. "You want the best for your students, and for them not to get the opportunity to compete and have closure to their year brought out a lot of frustrating emotions. At the same time, it's beyond our control, and we know that the best decisions are being made, and appropriate decisions were being made. But the initial emotion was just sadness for our students."

Goodman, a junior from La Salle Prep, said even though it won't happen it still felt like the team would be learning its NCAA bracket position on Monday. The Beavers finished 23-9 and were projected to play host to two NCAA Tournament early-round games at Gill Coliseum.

"We just really don't know how to feel. We don't know what to do, what to say, because it's still kind of a mystery as to what's next," Goodman said.

For Pivec, the immediate future involves preparing for two final exams and a final presentation scheduled for next week. Beyond that, the senior said she will start preparing for the WNBA draft and season.

If this year's seniors are granted an extra year of eligibility, which has been proposed by some athletes and coaches, Pivec said she would return for another year with the Beavers.

"If I do get another year of eligibility, I would take it in a heartbeat," Pivec said. "If that's not an option, go to the next step and try to play (professionally) wherever I can."

Rueck said he would support giving this year's seniors the opportunity to play one more season.

"As an athlete, you prepare your entire career for your senior year, and the end of it," Rueck said. "You are preparing the entire time to lead your team into the NCAA Tournament when you're a senior. That is your thesis. that's your final moment."

Rueck was especially emotional that the team's end-of-season banquet, scheduled for next month, already has been cancelled.

"My favorite part of the year is listening to them share their senior speech at our banquet. I don't know how to recreate that," Rueck said. "But they deserve that opportunity. They're getting shortchanged, so what can we do to make it right?"

In the short term, not much.

Rueck said he was asked to stay away from campus, and the NCAA has imposed a recruiting dead period through April 15 that prohibits all sports from any recruiting activity, including campus visits.

Rueck said he initially thought it was silly to cancel the team banquet weeks before it was to take place. But the more he learns about COVID-19, the more he understands the precautions.

"You've got to put science over emotion at this time," Rueck said. "We have to trust that the people making the decision know what they're doing."

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@pauldanzer


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