After a stellar high school career as a Lynnwood Royal and then four seasons playing at Oregon State University, Mikayla Pivec was ready to close out her collegiate basketball playing days with another trip to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. But March Madness has turned into March sadness for Pivec as this year’s tourney will not happen because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Some 24 hours after the NCAA announced that the national tournament was being scrapped, Pivec was still struggling to put into words how she felt.
“I am still in a little bit of shock,” Pivec said. “There’s a lot of emotion still; (it’s) hard to comprehend right now.”
Pivec helped the Beavers to an overall record of 23-9 this season, a top-20 ranking in national polls and a certain invite to the NCAA tourney by averaging 14.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. But it was the chance to lead her squad as a senior into the national tournament that Pivec was looking forward to the most.
“The NCAA tournament is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Pivec explained. “That’s what you dream about since you were a little kid growing up playing basketball at recess.”
“I’m sorry to not be able to finish out the year with my teammates the way we imagined,” she added.
While disappointed, Pivec did say that she understands why the NCAA went ahead with a cancellation of the tourney. “I know that this decision had to be made; and it was the right decision considering the health of other people that need to be the first priorities,” Pivec said.
With the NCAA tournament now canceled, Pivec has most likely played her last collegiate basketball game. But she leaves a legacy that won’t be soon forgotten in Corvallis, especially after a noteworthy senior year. Pivec is a Wooden Award finalist (outstanding collegiate men’s and women’s Player of the Year) and a Cheryl Miller Award top-10 finalist; she was named to the Naismith Trophy Midseason Team, a semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, the Preseason WNIT MVP and she was named to All-Tournament Teams at both the Maui Classic and the Miami Thanksgiving Classic.
Pivec also set the all-time Beavers’ women’s basketball career rebounding record and is in the top 10 in program history for career points, rebounds and assists.
With four years of hoops history at Oregon State now behind her, it would be understandable if Pivec started focusing on her inevitable basketball career at the professional level. But Pivec isn’t ready to leave Corvallis just yet. The NCAA has granted a fifth year of eligibility for all collegiate spring sports athletes as the spring sports calendar has also been nixed this year due to coronavirus concerns; Pivec is hoping that the NCAA will give winter sports athletes like herself another year of playing time too since winter season championships — including women’s basketball — are all going unrewarded this year.
“If I do get another year of eligibility, I would take it in a heartbeat. But if not, if that’s not an option, then (I’ll) go to the next step and try to play wherever I can,” Pivec said.
With the NCAA tournament canceled, Pivec is concentrating on her studies this week, something she takes very seriously. This year she is an Academic All-American and the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year in women’s basketball — and this is all at the postgraduate level. Pivec earned an undergraduate degree in BioHealth Science in her first three years at Oregon State — with a 3.9 GPA — and is currently working towards- a Master’s in biochemistry and biophysics.
If Pivec doesn’t get the chance to return to Oregon State next year, the pros will be calling. The WNBA draft is scheduled for April 17 in New York and teams in the league are slated to open their training camps on April 26. Pivec is projected to be a first or second round pick in the draft.
“If there is a draft and I don’t get another year of (college) eligibility, then I’d pursue that,” Pivec said.
It’s uncertain times for Pivec, something she isn’t necessarily comfortable with.
“I’m usually a person who has a plan, usually know what to do next — right now I don’t really have much of a plan,” she said. “(I’m) kind of taking it one-day-at-a-time and seeing how this whole thing plays out.”
— By Doug Petrowski