Mikayla Pivec was asked to fill some big shoes.
The Lynnwood High School graduate was handed the responsibility of replacing an Oregon State University women’s basketball legend. And she was tasked with learning a new position in the process.
But it turns out those shoes fit Pivec’s feet just fine.
Pivec was the player chosen to replace Beavers star point guard Sydney Wiese, and now she’s excelling as the floor general for an Oregon State team that’s 17-6 and ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll released Monday.
“I think I’m doing well,” said Pivec, whose Beavers come to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies this Sunday at 3 p.m. “There are things I’d like to improve on, but I just want to do whatever I can to help the team be successful. It’s a new role for me, but I’m really liking that role. There’s a lot of different things as a point guard you have to know and learn about compared to how I played the two [shooting guard] last year. But I’m embracing the challenge and learning every day.”
Pivec, a 5-10 sophomore who won just about every honor possible during a stellar prep career at Lynnwood — state champion, two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, and the trifecta of the Herald’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Girls High School Athlete of the Year, and Woman of the Year in Sports — had a promising freshman season as a shooting guard for the Beavers, averaging 7.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.
Much of that was alongside Wiese, who was a larger-than-life figure during her four years at Oregon State. Wiese was a four-time All-Pac-12 selection who graduated as the school’s career leader in assists and as the Pac-12’s career leader in 3-pointers made.
She was also unquestionably the team’s leader, guiding the Beavers to first-place finishes in the Pac-12 regular-season standings each of the past three years. Replacing Wiese was no small task for Oregon State coach Scott Rueck.
Pivec, who moved into the starting lineup midway through her freshman season, was not part of Rueck’s original plan for filling the point-guard position.
“We have a freshman in Aleah Goodman who’s a true point guard, and Katie McWilliams has played a lot of point guard in her career when Sydney needed a back-up,” Rueck said. “As we were assessing we thought Katie would be our one this year. But going into the first week of practice we were thinking, ‘You know what, let’s try Mik there.’ Then we’d have two players who have experience to play the one and we can be a little more flexible, and it would alleviate the pressure off both of them.”
A week into practice, Pivec was informed of the switch. She was suddenly being asked to play a position she hadn’t played regularly since her days as an Alderwood Middle School Mustang.
“I never thought I’d be the one [point guard],” Pivec said. “I know I’m a combo guard, so wherever the team needed me most I was going to do.
“At first I was out of my comfort zone,” Pivec added. “I was used to playing the two all last year, I knew the two like the back of my hand. But from the one you have to know where everybody goes and who to pass to. It’s a lot more detail than other positions.”
Pivec, who’s also a 4.0 student, proved a quick study. In Oregon State’s exhibition opener she dished out 12 assists in a 90-47 victory over Concordia.
In the Beavers’ first true test of the season, hosting then-No. 5 Notre Dame on Nov. 19, she finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a 72-67 loss.
She currently leads the Beavers in assists (5.0 per game) and steals (1.0), while ranking second in rebounds (7.5) and third in scoring (11.2) on a team that’s tied for fourth in the Pac-12 standings at 8-4.
“She showed she was ready right from our first scrimmage,” Rueck said about Pivec’s transition to point guard. “That first scrimmage the other team could not stop her from getting to the rim. I thought to myself, ‘Oh my goodness, I think we’re on to something.’ In the open court Mik is pure magic. The half court has been a learning curve, but she’s handling it beautifully.
“I think it’s well documented now that she was thrown to the wolves being asked to play a position she hadn’t played since seventh grade. But Mik handled it with courage and grace, and she’s been a great example to our team in the way she fights every day when she knows she’s out of her comfort zone. She’s been highly successful and I’m very pleased.”
Pivec gets a chance to show off her new skills in front of her hometown fans Sunday. It will be the first time Pivec has played collegiately at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, as the Beavers did not play the Huskies on the road last season. Pivec grew up a Washington fan, and she was recruited by former Huskies coach Mike Neighbors, but chose to go to Oregon State instead.
“I’m a Husky at heart, but I felt Oregon State was the best place for me to grow as a person and a player,” Pivec said.
And nothing illustrates her growth as a player more than how she’s handled the switch to point guard.
If you have an idea for a community sports story, e-mail Nick Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.