By Steve Gress

Corvallis Gazette-Times

Sydney Wiese took some time to explore the waterfront area on a picturesque July afternoon in Seattle last weekend.

She began to feel a bit nostalgic as she took in the sights of the city and thought back to her team’s shootaround a few hours earlier that took her back to an arena filled with so many memories.

In a sense, it reminded her of more than just a few games, but of what the past four years had meant to her as one of the best players — and ambassadors — in Oregon State women’s basketball history.

Wiese, the Beavers’ all-time leader in assists and 3-pointers made, was in Seattle as a member of the reigning WNBA champion Los Angeles Sparks.

A rookie, Wiese has had to adjust to being the small fish in a big pond and learn to fill a role that is quite different from the one she was accustomed to throughout nearly her entire basketball life.

“Overall, it’s been a wonderful experience,” Wiese said about 90 minutes before the Sparks took on the Seattle Storm in KeyArena, where Wiese played for three Pac-12 tournament titles, winning one, during her time at Oregon State.

“I’m learning a lot. I feel like you almost start over at this level. There’s still so much to learn and get better at, but I’m surrounded by really cool people so I can’t be more thankful for the team that I’m with and the people I’m around.”

Wiese, the 11th overall pick in April’s draft, was a starter in the Sparks’ first preseason game.

She had no idea she would have that opportunity until coach Brian Agler put the matchups on the board.

“It was definitely a great opportunity so I think looking back I’m learning every day how important it is to truly take advantage of moments and to savor them and make sure that you get the most out of them,” Wiese said. “There’s a lot of risks that come with that because you don’t want to make mistakes.

“Being a rookie, you don’t have a lot of leeway, you don’t have a lot of pull. But at the same time, if you want to stay out there, you want to be able to show that you’re fearless and take risks. If I could go back to that preseason game I would be a little bit more aggressive and make more stuff happen, but it’s a lesson. But it was really cool to be able to start for sure.”

Wiese came off the bench and played just over five minutes on July 8, missing her two 3-point attempts and grabbing one rebound in the Sparks’ 81-69 loss.

Through the Sparks’ 87-77 win Thursday over the Connecticut Sun at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Wiese is averaging just 7.3 minutes and 2.8 points per game in 15 appearances — she did not play in three games. However, Wiese is anything but discouraged. Instead, she is focused on taking advantage of any and every opportunity both on and off the court.

One of those opportunities came in the second regular-season game of the season at home against the Washington Mystics. With several key members just returning to the team after wrapping up their season in Turkey, Wiese got an extended run and made the most of the time on the court.

She played 27 minutes and scored 22 points, hitting 6 of 10 3-pointers in a 99-89 victory.

“My whole mindset was to be aggressive and take those shots when I was open and just to have fun,” Wiese said. “To be out there, you don’t know how long you’re going to be out there for, and luckily some shots were falling and it was a lot of fun to be able to see some go down and to get quality minutes and to sort of have that realization that hey, maybe I can do this. Maybe I am supposed to be here.

“Just to have a moment like that or a game like that, even going forward the rest of my career, I will always have that.”

Wiese noticed the difference between the college game and professional basketball beginning with training camp.

“In college you are with people, you are working toward something and here it’s more, especially in training camp, you’re trying to prove yourself and there’s not really the other four out there to back you up if you make mistakes,” Wiese said. “You’re out there on your own. Obviously, once you make the team, especially as a young kid, you’re trying to continue to improve and be OK with where you’re at and remember that you’re pretty much starting over.”

As the youngest player on the team, Wiese has tried to find the balance between observing and listening and speaking up.

She credits veteran Alana Beard, who is in her 11th and final season in the WNBA, with being the player she has looked to most to help her learn the ropes.

“She’s the type of leader that will show you exactly what you are supposed to be doing, tell you what you are supposed to be doing and then she expects you to do it right after the instruction,” Wiese said. “But she’s willing to take the time to make sure you really understand what’s happening. We’ve had a lot of really good talks about life in general.”

While Wiese has had to adjust to a different role, she has not lost the love and desire for the game — “if I didn’t love it I wouldn’t be here,” she said. She knows she is “living the dream” — like living five minutes from Venice Beach — and is excited for the future, which includes playing in Australia following the WNBA season.

But last weekend in Seattle, as well as a few other times this season, Wiese was reminded of the past and memories of her time at Oregon State flooded back.

As was the case following games at OSU’s Gill Coliseum, Wiese took as much time as was needed to greet and talk with the small contingent of her fans who made the trip to Seattle to see her play.

“That’s what it’s about is the relationships and the people and that’s what originally drew me to Oregon State, was to be able to share all these experiences with people who have become so dear to me,” she said. “And so to be able to continue those relationships because of basketball, I will always be grateful to the sport for that because it’s so much more than the game and the 40 minutes that you’re out there.

“I do miss Corvallis. There’s no place like it,” she said. “I have learned being away from Corvallis how special it really is, how special Oregon State is, and I don’t think there’s another place like that. As great as L.A. is and the big city, the dream and the life and whatever, there’s no place like Corvallis, Oregon.”

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