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Kat Tudor started all 34 games last season, playing nearly 30 minutes a game while scoring 12 points per game as the Oregon State women’s basketball team made a run to its second Elite Eight appearance in three seasons.

Tudor was part of a three-guard lineup that started every game and averaged three of the top four minutes for the Beavers.

With all three returning, and the addition of redshirt sophomore Destiny Slocum, who sat out last season after transferring from Maryland, there was a strong possibility one of the starters would be asked to come off the bench this season.

And while Tudor started the first game of the season, she has been the one to see her role change the most as since the opener she has been asked to be one of the first players off the bench.

Tudor admits it was “very difficult” for her at first as she had gotten used to starting and enjoyed that role. But after talking with the coaching staff, she saw how coming off the bench could help provide an extra boost for the Beavers.

“I’ve learned that you just have to do what your team needs,” Tudor said Thursday afternoon before the Beavers were set to practice for Saturday’s 1 p.m. nonconference finale at home against Cal State Bakersfield. “And right now that’s what the team needs. And I’ll do whatever the team needs for as long as I have to.”

Rueck often says he isn’t as concerned about who is in the starting lineup but does understand there is something psychological to taking the court at the start of a game and that can’t be disregarded.

“It’s not easy for her, it’s not easy for any of us,” Rueck said of picking someone not to start. “Kat Tudor’s an amazing player. For her, I think she’s handled it incredibly well. She’s stayed engaged, she knows how important she is.”

While she may not be starting, Tudor has been even more productive than last season. The junior sharpshooter is averaging 12.6 points per game in 23.8 minutes a game, the third most by any player.

“Everybody is a little bit better this year and so because of that, minutes might not be quite what they were but Kat’s proven she’s hard to take off the floor,” Rueck said. “So that’s what I say to everyone: Make me play you. That comes down to who’s getting it done at the time and what the game demands.”

Tudor has been able to observe the game now at the start and has a better idea of how she can make an immediate impact when her number is called.

“After I got past the mental part of not starting, I was like you know what, I can just see how everything is going, what I need to do and how I need to approach a game,” she said.

Tudor has also been rehabbing from a hand injury that required surgery this summer and was not able to dribble for two-plus months. That put her a bit behind as the Beavers began camp back in October.

She said she’s finally regaining some of the confidence she may have been lacking dealing with the injury.

“I think I’m getting there,” she said. “I’m on the upward swing of that. It’s good to finally get my confidence a little more back with being out for like 10 weeks. I’m finally getting in the groove and I know our team is, too.”

She had two huge 3-pointers — one turned into a four-point play — in the fourth quarter last time out against Duke that helped the Beavers keep the Blue Devils at bay in a 71-57 victory.

“It’s taken her a while just to figure out am I who I was and yeah, actually you’re every bit what you were if not better and she will be better,” Rueck said. “I’ve been really pleased with her.”

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald