INDIANAPOLIS — One Oregon State senior who doesn’t get much recognition is Jen’Von’Ta Hill.
But Hill, who transferred in from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas before the start of last season, has played an integral part in the Beavers success, despite not seeing much playing time.
“She brings an incredible, incredible presence to her. She brings a joy into our gym each day,” coach Scott Reuck said.
“Jen has been hampered by some injuries that set her back, but that has not diminished her impact on our team. If you look at Jen’s career record, she has done nothing but win, nothing but win. She has a presence about her that’s just — it oozes success, and so she’s a very integral part of our team.
“For those of us on the inside, she’s vital to our success.”
Even with all the success her teams have had in college, including playing in two junior college Final Fours, getting to Indianapolis for this weekend’s Division 1 Final Four is the highlight.
The Beavers take on Connecticut at 3 p.m. Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the national semifinals.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s definitely a dream come true,” Hill said. “You watch this on TV as you’re a little kid and now you’re a part of it. I’m pretty much speechless. Just smiles all around.
Hill said the accomplishment showcases what the Beavers are made of this season.
“Just this competition, the Elite Eight, the Final Four, I mean, this explains what kind of team we are,” she said. “We’re a competitive team, we’re hard working, driven.”
And getting an opportunity to take the court against the storied UConn program is also pretty special.
“An awesome challenge,” she said. “Then again, growing up you dreamed to be on UConn’s team. But this time we’re going to (try to) beat them. This is another great experience and I know we’re all looking forward to it.”
Oregon State may be a surprise team in the Final Four, but for the Beavers this is exactly where they expected to be when the season began.
“This year it was definitely an expectation,” Rueck said. “Coming off a Pac-12 championship a year ago, unfortunately getting beat in the second round was disappointing. I mean, there was still a little bit of doubt, can we get all way to this level, for sure. You know things need to go your way a bit.”
Those doubts may have become bigger when starting point guard Sydney Wiese went down with a broken hand just before the start of Pac-12 play.
“I didn’t know if we could weather that storm in Pac-12 play, knowing we opened in L.A. and then two weeks later had the Bay (Area) schools coming in without her potentially, but we weathered that,” Rueck said. “At the beginning of the year, yes, we absolutely believed. And going to Notre Dame, playing them to one point, again, this year, without Sydney, gave this program a lot of confidence that they could do it.
Trying to slow down one of the most dominating programs in all of college women’s basketball will be no small order for the Beavers.
But they will take the same approach as they have each game so far this season.
“You find areas that you can do your best to control, and that’s not easy against them,” Rueck said. “They are hurt you in so many different ways. But just like what we did against Baylor, they score so well out of transition. We’re going to have to be at our absolute best in taking care of the basketball, doing our best to keep them out of transition and making them work for everything. They have got the ability to score over the top, as well as anybody in basketball.
“And so that’s what we make people do. We’re going to have to make them do that and then we’re going to have to compete on the boards and win the boards.”