It can be hard for a student-athlete to blend in at the grocery store or getting frozen yogurt in a town the size of Corvallis. That’s especially true when you’re 6’1” and the four-year starting point guard on one of the most successful teams in Oregon State women’s basketball history.
“I feel people’s eyes on me,” says senior Sydney Wiese.
But she doesn’t shy away from the limelight. She shines in it. Wiese uses her platform to lift up and inspire people around her, from instructors and professors, to her teammates and other students, but especially the girls in jerseys and headbands lifting “Sydn3y” signs who want to grow up to be just like her.
“It means the world to me that they see me in this different light,” says Wiese. Whether it’s playing Foosball and air hockey with the kids at the Boys & Girls Club, taking cancer patients fishing or posing for photos with fans after home games, Wiese is an ambassador not only for her team, the program and women’s sports, but also anyone out there with a dream.
“Everybody should believe they are capable of whatever they set their heart and mind to.”
For Wiese, that dream has always been to be a Division I college student-athlete and a professional basketball player.
Wiese grew up in Phoenix, where she and her brother spent a lot of time at the gym and at church because of her parents’ work. Her mom works for a church, and her dad is a high school basketball coach. Whether it was helping out at a basketball camp or church camp, she was given opportunities to help others.
“I’ve always loved being a part of people’s lives,” Wiese said.
Working youth basketball camps at Oregon State isn’t mandatory. But if she could, she would volunteer every day, just so she could be around kids who are excited to learn the game.
“I’ve really appreciated having this platform to reach out to the community and get to know them,” she said.
Following a tradition started by former teammate Ruth Hamblin, Wiese had her hair cut after the annual Dam Cancer basketball game to donate for hairpieces for people with medical conditions.
“It was getting heavy,” she said. “Someone out there will appreciate it a lot more than I have been.”
Wiese is proud to represent Beaver Nation and to have made her mark among the historic moments at Gill.
Women’s basketball set attendance records for home regular season games. In fact, the equivalent of about 1 in every 10 people in the Best College Town in the Pac-12 turns out to watch.
When Oregon State clinched its third regular season Pac-12 championship with a win over Stanford on Feb. 24, the sellout crowd of 9,604 fans set a record for a women's game at Gill Coliseum.
“I’ve enjoyed every single second of it,” Wiese said of her time at OSU. “I could not picture myself anywhere else.”
And by the way, “We’re not done yet.”
Wiese was an impressionable middle schooler during the Steve Nash era when her home team, the Phoenix Suns, captured three NBA Division Titles and made it to Western Conference Finals. Wiese idolized Nash.
“He was fierce on the court,” she recalled, but he also praised his teammates. The two-time league MVP influenced her development as a player.
“He had these crazy moves,” Wiese said. “He made it a fun sport to watch.” Those traits she admired, the style and flair, are now her hallmark.
With her name etched into Oregon State history -- three straight conference regular season championships, the Pac-12 record holder for three-point shots, a school record in assists just to name a few of the individual and team accomplishments -- the likelihood of a professional career is almost certain.
Wiese shares her success with those around her.
“It’s not a solo journey,” she said.
She’s particularly close to teammates Breanna Brown, Gabby Hanson, and Kolbie Orum, who entered as freshmen the same year as Wiese. She spoke of how Hanson’s honesty has challenged her and helped her to grow.
“She sees things from a different perspective. I trust her. She wants the best for me,” Wiese said.
Being genuine toward each other is part of a championship culture. It’s one of the reasons the team has exceeded expectations.
“We made history in so many ways. But it wouldn’t be as special if we didn’t care about each other,” she said.
Wiese calls Hamblin her best friend, even though she stole her dream by playing in Australia and making it to the WNBA first. Hamblin pushed her to become a better player and is the source of some of her favorite memories.
“All the people who’ve come through this program, I consider them to be sisters,” she said.
Her teammates have also made individual struggles easier to overcome, like recovering from a broken hand that sidelined Wiese for eight games her junior year. “I have been blessed by an incredible support system,” she said.
One of the people cheering loudest is an instructor Wiese met in a Communications 218 class her freshman year. Sarah Sheldrick makes a point of asking students about activities they’re involved with. Wiese had kept Sheldrick informed about missing class because of basketball throughout the term. As she turned in her final project, Wiese invited Sheldrick to an important game during winter break against Notre Dame.
“We really need a lot of people to come,” Wiese told her instructor.
“Oh, I’ll do that. That sounds great,” Sheldrick replied.
Sheldrick had only been to one basketball game before, but she bought 10 tickets and invited her friends and their families to attend. During that game, Wiese hit three three-pointers, and Sheldrick became an Oregon State Women’s Basketball fan.
“I loved watching her on the court, her fierceness and dominance as a player,” Sheldrick said. “Let’s be clear, I had no idea of what they were doing.”
But it didn’t matter that she didn’t understand the ritual of players licking their hands then wiping the bottom of their shoes for better traction. She attended almost every home game that season with her husband, her father and youngest daughter. Women’s basketball games brought them closer as a family. It became a tradition, and the next year she bought season tickets. Sheldrick always listens for attendance to be announced.
“I love just watching Gill fill up, which is why we had to get our own seats,” she said. “This was getting to be a big deal.”
Wiese and her teammates won their first Pac-12 championship in 2015, and repeated as conference champions in 2016 before making it all the way to the Final Four.
For Wiese’s junior year, Sheldrick bought reserved seats so they could be closer to the action. When she pulls out her phone, there are family pictures from games, along with pictures of Wiese signing autographs.
“She is a person who is approachable,” Sheldrick said. “I love that all these little people, old people, people of all different kinds are running up to be a part of that light that she has.
“There is something about Sydney that is really special. It’s why she gets Gill and her fans and her team to come around her. That’s what makes me proud.”
As point guard, Wiese controls the game. But she doesn’t flaunt her success. “She does not act like a star, even though she is glowing,” Sheldrick said.
“When she hits one of those shots, you can feel the whole crowd, a collective gasp and then there’s just this roar. I feel it too, inside me, the excitement. It’s a powerful thing.”
Sometimes, Sheldrick sees Wiese on campus and announces to anyone within earshot, “Do you know who that is? That’s Sydney Wiese.”
“Her reaction, it makes my heart happy,” Wiese said.
Wiese credits Sheldrick with influencing her decision to change her major. She’ll graduate with a degree in speech communication this spring.
“She taught me what I want to do with life after basketball, and how important it is to communicate and to value people,” Wiese said.
After she’s done playing, Wiese said she could see herself as a sportscaster. She’s at ease in interviews, being in front of the camera and she even kept a basketball diary for the media, taking readers inside the Beavers program.
First, she wants to play professionally for as long as she can.
“My dream is to make the WNBA and to have an impact on that league,” she said. “I’m excited to see what the future has in store for me.”
Photo and story courtesy of Beaver Athletics.
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