First place: Mikayla Pivec
If anyone has followed Oregon State Women’s Basketball in recent years, they have probably heard of Mikayla Pivec. But they may have only heard part of her story.
Pivec is the starting shooting guard for the 15-0 and #3 ranked team in the country. She has been a key player in the program since bursting onto the scene in Corvallis as the highest-rated high school recruit that head coach Scott Rueck and the program had locked up at the time. Rueck and his team had just come off of a historic 2016 season, winning the PAC-12 and reaching the Final Four, before being ousted by eventual national champion, UConn.
Pivec came into a team and role with high expectations where she began to develop as a leader, teammate and player moving into her four-year collegiate career with the Beavers.
Athletics and leadership have come naturally to Pivec, as she grew up playing multiple sports in Lynwood, Wash. about 20 minutes north of Seattle. She stood out early in the Washington basketball ranks at her high school, winning the Seattle Times Athlete of the Year and a state title in basketball in 2015 along with earning countless other accolades from high school and college.
Pivec comes from an athletic family, with her mother running distance at Idaho and father playing soccer at Washington. She also gave running a try herself in high school in track, moving into throwing javelin at OSU in 2017 along with her slot on the basketball roster.
Basketball has been the main athletic focus though for Pivec at Oregon State, with her current team likely being the best she has been on yet at OSU. This season she has been averaging 15.4 ppg and 10.1 rebounds with relentless play around the basket.
Basketball isn’t the sole focus of Pivec’s life though. Whether it is on the basketball court, in the library or related to community service, Pivec continues to live a life devoted to leading and helping others. This applies to her basketball team, but what she does off the court is also at a high caliber of success and service
“We are student-athletes, and students come first. I need a backup plan,” Pivec said.
Pivec takes her studies seriously, as she majored in Bio-Health sciences in her undergraduate studies and is currently taking credits towards a Masters after walking for graduation in the spring. She has even written multiple articles for The Oregonian that give insight into her experiences both as a student and as an athlete. She showcases her high level of success in academics for student-athletes, earning PAC-12 All Academic First Team her sophomore season and last year collecting Academic All-America Second Team.
“I want to pursue basketball first and if not medical school, [I’m] leaning towards pediatrics or psychiatry,” Pivec said.
Along with academics and basketball, Pivec has become known not only for dishing up assists on the court, but off of it too. She has become an active member of the community, helping serve others and volunteering her time.
“Student-athletes have such a face in this town, so we want to be able to support the community as much as they do us,” Pivec said.
“She is a role model in life and sports. She is always humble and leads by example,” former high school basketball teammate and friend Taylor Fahey said.
“She has the most contagious work ethic. This summer I got to see that again when we volunteered at the TABLA basketball camp,” Fahey said. TABLA (Team Awesome Basketball Leadership Academy) is a women's empowerment in basketball camp in Washington that Pivec has helped develop and volunteer at.
Along with TABLA, Pivec volunteers with numerous organizations including working with Beavers CARE (Corvallis Athletes Reaching Everyone) and making visits to assisted living locations such as Stoneybrook in Corvallis to listen and gain insight from elderly women.
“I feel privileged to play today based on how women used to have it....Speaking to people who used to play only on half-court baskets gives me awareness,” Pivec said.
Pivec is also outspoken about the pay discrepancy between men’s and women’s professional basketball, understanding that is a platform she can carry into the future. She was given the opportunity to hear about some of the pay issues from a few of her idols when the US Women’s National team came to town for an exhibition matchup. Pivec grew up watching and looking up to specifically Sue Bird who plays for the Seattle Storm. Pivec is now not simply the fan, but making bursts of her own as she was recently featured in ESPN’s mock WNBA draft where she was projected to be a first-round draft pick.
“It was surreal playing [Team USA] since I grew up watching them on tv. I was a fangirl, I had a Sue Bird jersey in fourth grade,” Pivec said.
As Pivec continues to stay busy off the court, her determination and goals for the season have remained the same.
“Our team's big goal is the Final Four. A PAC-12 title would be great, but our group chat is named ‘Operation New Orleans’,” Pivec said. New Orleans, La. will be the host site for the NCAA Women’s Final Four during April 3-5. The matchups will feature the four last teams standing from the NCAA tournament, a place that Pivec and her teams have yet to appear in her accomplished career at OSU.
Pivec’s previous three teams have at least reached the Sweet Sixteen round, including an Elite Eight birth in 2018 where the Beavers lost to No. 1 seed Louisville. Recognizing what she has to do at the moment and not in the future is critical for Pivec’s success and staying in the moment.
“You take every day and try to maximize the opportunity, putting yourself in the best position and capitalize,” Pivec said.
In her senior season Pivec has become a role model and leader for players of the team, along with continuing to be a role model to members of the community. She is a crucial piece to the team’s morale and as the PAC-12 regular-season starts to vamp up, this moral will be as critical as ever.
“I knew how hard of a worker she was when being recruited,” OSU freshman forward Taylor Jones said. “She took me under her wing and helped me gain confidence when we worked out in the preseason. She’s just an all around amazing person who holds herself to such a high standard on and off the court. Her hard work and dedication and willingness are things that I aspire to be.”