Marie Gulich knew exactly what she was looking for when she was deciding where to spend four years playing women’s college basketball.
“I need to have people who value me as a person and take care of me as a person and not just a basketball player,” Oregon State’s senior center said Tuesday afternoon before practice. “I felt like this program, just seeing all the girls getting along so well being friends on my official visit. It was just really cool.”
Having traveled often while competing for Germany, it was that family feel at Oregon State that won out over the likes of Washington and San Diego.
“I wanted to be a part of something where my teammates are my friends, where we sit at a table and we can laugh and be super loud and have conversations and be crazy,” she said. “It wasn’t like this at the other schools where I visited.”
San Diego, however, was tough to turn down because of the location.
“Then I thought, I could be in the nicest place in the world but if I don’t feel comfortable with the people around me, then I would probably be miserable,” she said.
Turns out Oregon State was more than just a good fit.
As her final season with the Beavers is winding down — Gulich could be playing her final game inside Gill Coliseum on Sunday when the No. 15 Beavers host USC at 1 p.m. — she is surprised about many of her accomplishments.
Gulich surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career in a win at Washington State three games ago, a feat she said she never would have envisioned when she committed to the Beavers.
Her ability to be a vocal leader is another. It’s a role that, like it or not, she had to step into as the Beavers’ lone senior.
Gulich admitted she cares about what people think about her and that she was concerned how her teammates might take it if she said things that might be “uncomfortable.”
“As a leader, you have to sometimes just say stuff which is not positive and you have to call out people,” she said.
But when the players saw the emotion she played with, especially in some tough early losses to Notre Dame and Duke, “they saw how important this is to me. So that helped me to speak my mind,” she said.
Freshman forward Taya Corosdale said the Beavers look to Gulich in games and during practices.
“She huddles us up and she usually is the one that speaks and she tells us hey let’s do this or let’s just keep going together,” Corosdale said.
Gulich had some pretty good role models when it comes to learning ways to lead. She has stayed in touch with Sydney Wiese, and took some good advice — that if Gulich made an investment in her teammates, they would be invested in her — from her former teammate.
“I think this season just shows the process of that and I think everyone on this team and this culture experiences it every year that if you give, you’ll get back,” Gulich said.
Wiese showed up in Corvallis Friday to surprise Gulich for her big weekend.
Gulich isn’t just a vocal leader, she has been what many players and coaches say is the Beavers’ “rock” on the floor.
She leads the Beavers in scoring (16.3) and rebounding (9.1) and has been a strong presence in the post defensively with 3.2 blocks a game.
And she has delivered in the clutch.
“Every time we’ve needed a big basket she’s been able to come through,” said sophomore guard Mikayla Pivec. “… She’s been super consistent, has shot the ball great from the field and has been an inside presence on defense blocking shots and covering for us. She’s been a huge leader for us and I wouldn’t trade her for any other post.”
Added Corosdale: “I’ve never played with a dominant post player like her before and it’s just been really nice. She gets double-teamed a lot and opens it up for a lot of us. She’s just a great leader and a great person to play with.”
While the Beavers hope there are plenty more games to be played as they look secure another NCAA tournament bid and run to a Sweet 16 or better, the end is inevitably drawing near.
And if the Beavers aren’t one of the top 16 seeds in the tournament, they will hit the road, which would make Sunday the final home game for Gulich.
She’s never taken the love and appreciation of the fans for granted.
“I think about it every home game,” Gulich said. “Just to remind myself how special it is to play in front of a crowd like this. Beaver Nation is amazing. I just love the people.
“Thinking this might be my last chance to play in front of Beaver Nation makes me sad. I get emotional about it because I love this program. It’s been a great time.
“… Even after games we have lost in Gill, I love that they still come down to the court and they still come and encourage and they still love you. I think that just says a lot.”
When her time at Oregon State does end, she will look back fondly on all the players who have come before her and the drive and determination they exuded and has helped make her a better player.
“It inspires me every day,” Gulich said. “We walk up to film and I see the pictures of Syd and Gabby (Hanson) and Jamie (Weisner) and Ruth (Hamblin). I saw Jamie work so hard and Jamie sad and mad and all her emotions. I saw her in every stage of her life.
“Those people inspire me. Syd being in (the practice facility) at 3 in the morning getting shots up, that just reminds me of how hard this is. But at the same time those people were so humble and so hard-working, they just went through it. It just inspired me to just be able to learn from them.”