After struggling through a 2-16 Pac-10 season, and a 17 game losing streak, the Oregon St. women's basketball program took another hit, losing their best player. Talisa Rhea, who was named to the All-Pacific-10 Team by the media, and became only the 15th Beaver to score over 1,000 career points, has transferred to the Seattle University Redhawks.
Rhea will have to sit out a year before using her final year of eligibility playing for the Redhawks, who, like their mens' program, just finished their first season after moving back up to Division I. Rhea played as a true freshman, and has a red-shirt year she will use next season.
Seattle University head women's basketball coach Joan Bonvicin had recruited Rhea when Bonvicin was at Arizona, and Rhea was a top high school prospect in the state of Alaska.
"Talisa is someone I have known for quite a while, as she is someone I had recruited when I was at Arizona. She is a smart person who understands the game, and is an excellent shooter. Talisa brings so much to the table, as she is a proven winner, a great team player, an excellent leader and a hard worker. Beyond that, she very bright and brings a lot of different elements to our program. Bringing in someone who is a proven winner will really help our program. She will be the oldest of all the new players, but with the redshirt year, it will not only benefit her but her teammates playing around her."
As a junior, Rhea averaged 15.3 points per game, leading the Beavers in scoring. Rhea was also 7th in the Pac-10 in scoring in 2010, tenth in both assists and free throw percentage. Rhea was also the Beavers' leading three point shooter.
Central Catholic product Kate Lanz, the 2009 Class 6A Oregonian player of the year, has also decided to transfer, and has asked for (and was granted) a release from her letter of intent.
"I decided to leave because for me to be successful I needed to be in an environment that was positive and it wasn't a positive environment," Lanz said. "I needed to make a change."
Lanz was lightly used as a freshman, despite providing an offensive spark when she did get on the floor.
Unlike Rhea, Lanz hasn't yet identified a place to transfer to before deciding to drop her scholarship, but Portland St. has been mentioned as a possibility.
This is possibly the most telling sign of disfunction in coach Lavonda Wagner's program, when a player of this caliber sacrifices a scholarship without any new career path identified when other issues, like being homesick, or academics, is not an issue.
The situation deteriorated further with the announcement by sophomore forward Kirsten Tilleman that she too will be leaving Oregon St. after completing the current term.
Tilleman, from Bozeman, Mont., started 31 games in 2009-10, averaging over 34 minutes per game, and led the team in rebounding with 7.5 per game.
Sophomore Tayler Champion left the program during the season for UC-Irvine, and two additional reserves, freshman Amaya Gastaminza and sophomore Kassandra McCalister have also left the program, leaving only five returning scholarship players in school.
Assistant Kellee Barney has also left the program since the season ended.
The departure of essentially all their significant
back-court and mid-tier players except Haiden Palmer could well render the Oregon St. post players irrelevant in the coming season. Getting the ball inside was a struggle at best this past season, and now, with no proven outside shooting or mid-floor passing capability, as well as the loss of their best post player, it is hard to see how the Beavers will be able to play either an uptempo or a half-court game at the level of the Pac-10 competition.
The mass vote of no confidence in Wagner (69-85 overall, and 27-63 in the Pac-10 in five years) by her players' decisions to leave also makes the prospects for recruiting dubious at best.