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Maddie Washington

Oregon State junior Maddie Washington (3) shoots over Duke's Jade Williams earlier this season. Despite being just 6-foot-1, Washington has had success playing at the center position this season.

This season sure has felt a lot like high school for Maddie Washington, at least in one aspect of basketball.

Washington, in her junior season with the Oregon State women’s basketball program, has returned to her prep roots playing in the post for the No. 11 Beavers.

And while Washington may be a bit undersized at just 6-foot-1, she has been able to hold her own so far this season.

“I like to think I’m tall,” Washington joked last week. “Of course there’s the (teammate Joanna Grymek) Jo’s out there, the 6-8 girl. That was on my mind. But working with Scott (Rueck) and the other coaches and even Jo herself, they helped prepare me for the position and make sure I’m in the right place.”

The biggest part of playing the position for Washington is making sure she brings a toughness to her game.

“It’s not a little girls game anymore, it’s physical down there,” she said. “So just being tough mentally and physically. … You have to know what is the right position, you have to think one step ahead of your opponent so I think that’s a big thing.

“And you’ve got to play with heart. Of course there’s going to be girls bigger than me with weight on me and I’ve just got to say hey do you want this, do you want to have your team’s back, they need you right now so you’ve got to toughen up and I think that’s the biggest mentality.”

Washington has started the last six games at the center position and is averaging 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds a game in 14.1 minutes per game.

She’s also been steady defensively.

“She’s figuring out that OK I can be a five at this level and hold my own,” Rueck said. “The block she had against Duke was awesome. We’re seeing defense from her down there and then obviously scoring. That gives us another look that I wasn’t sure we had before the year.”

Washington is the third player Rueck has inserted into the starting lineup at the center position this season. Grymek started the first three and Janessa Thropay the next three before Washington took over.

Washington did start the first nine games as a sophomore at the four position before Taya Corosdale took over as the starter.

Still, it has been a bit of an adjustment in that regard.

“Coming off the bench you get to watch the first few minutes of the game,” Washington said. “You get to see what you’re opponents are like and what they like to do in their game plan. Now you’re starting and now you’re the person who has to figure it out and set the example. Like I said it’s a challenge but it’s definitely fun and I like it.”

When Washington first got to Oregon State, she was surprised at having to learn three different positions. At first she questioned why as she never expected to be called on to play some of them.

“Now I’m like oh crap I’m glad I paid somewhat attention freshman year,” she said with a laugh.

Having to know three or more positions can be confusing at times, especially when you move from one to another so quickly in a game.

Being able to be focused is the key.

“Going into the game, regardless of if you are on the bench or on the floor, you have to stay focused so you know even if he doesn’t tell you,” Washington said. “Hey Maddie go get Taya. Well if Jo’s in the game I have to be the four. You have to be focused but once you get that down we’re fine.”

So far, Washington has been able to relive some of her high school success playing a position she never seriously considered would be one she would be called on to play in college.

And she has made an important impact.

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Sports Editor

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