Sydney Wiese back from 'whirlwind' season
A year ago, Sydney Wiese was at Oregon State, the senior point guard and captain for the Beavers as they rolled to their third straight Pac-12 championship.
The year since, by her on-target estimation, has been "a whirlwind."
From Corvallis to Los Angeles to Townsville, Australia, with a few points in between, there has been little down time until recently for the pro basketball rookie.
After being taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft, the 6-foot southpaw helped the L.A. Sparks take the Minnesota Lynx to the fifth and deciding game before succumbing in the championship series.
The second half of Wiese's inaugural pro campaign was spent in Townsville, Queensland, where she was a part of the team that won the Australian league championship.
"It was a busy year, to say the least," Wiese says from her home in Phoenix. "But I wouldn't have traded it for anything."
From late March 2017, when the Beavers lost in their Sweet 16 game against Florida State at Stockton, California, to early February, when she completed a three-day training camp with USA Women's Basketball at Columbia, South Carolina, Wiese's life was jammed tight as a limbo rope.
From Stockton, the four-time all-Pac-12 selection returned to Corvallis, packed up her belongings and brought them home to Phoenix. Over the next week, she attended former teammate Jamie Weisner's wedding in Richland, Washington, then was off to New York to attend the WNBA draft. Shortly thereafter, she began training camp in L.A. and a season with the Sparks that ended in early October.
Two days after that, Wiese flew to Australia for a season in what is called the Women's National Basketball League, which concluded in late January. From there, she returned to the States and soon headed to South Carolina for the training camp.
Back home in Phoenix after that, Wiese took it easy for the first time in a long time.
"I needed a break," she says. "It was nice to take a step back and not worry about working out or playing basketball for a couple of weeks.
"I came up to Corvallis to watch a couple of games (against UCLA and Southern Cal) and hang out with people. Then I came home and did a few things with friends and family here. Now, I'm back in training and getting into lifting, running and basketball," she says.
Wiese, 22, joined a Los Angeles team loaded with veteran guards, including Chelsea Gray, Alana Beard, Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams.
"It was overwhelming at first," Wiese says. "I'd always had the dream of becoming a professional. When that turns into reality, it's difficult to grasp. I was there with players I'd grown up watching. It was a quick transition (from the college game), and it was difficult."
In her second regular-season game with the Sparks, though, Wiese exploded for 22 points off the bench, sinking six 3-point shots in a 99-89 win over Washington.
"Surreal," Wiese says. "It was one of those games where the shots are just falling. I called my mom afterward and was saying, 'No matter what happens in the rest of my career, I'll always have that game. I proved I'm capable of doing it.'"
Wiese wound up as the ninth player in an eight-player rotation for the Sparks, averaging 2.3 points and 7.9 minutes while shooting only .383 from the field but a solid .400 from 3-point range.
"Minutes were tough to come by," Wiese says, "but playing in L.A. was a blessing. I was surrounded by some of the best players in the world, who happen to be amazing people. The coaching staff was very helpful, and being in L.A., a lot of family and friends were able to come and visit during the summer. And having the experience of going to the finals — you couldn't ask for more out of a rookie season, except maybe to win it all.
"Going forward, I'll do what I can to prove myself and get more minutes and fit into the system. I'm sure I'll benefit from being able to take in all the lessons, on and off the court."
Wiese says Sparks coach Brian Agler reminds her of Oregon State coach Scott Rueck.
"They're similar in the way they approach preparation for games, and the way they demand the best out of you every single moment," Wiese says. "Coach Agler always said not to make excuses. If I wasn't playing, it was because I wasn't quite prepared to do what was expected of me.
"I get that. I'm going to work on weaknesses and be whatever they want me to be for next season."
Wiese arrived in Australia after the season had begun and missed the first two games. She soon worked her way into the starting lineup, though, and stayed there through most of the season. Wiese averaged 7.5 points and 2.3 assists for the Fire during the regular season, shooting 42 percent from the field, 34 percent from 3-point range and 92 percent at the line for season. She had a 29-point outburst, going 5 for 6 from beyond the arc, against Bendigo in December.
The Pac-12 career 3-point leader scored 14 points in the opener of the finals against Melbourne. She suffered through a 1-for-10 night and scored only three points in the final game on Jan. 21, but still finished third in balloting for MVP of the championship series.
"I was with another really good group of players and awesome people," Wiese says. "We won the championship in a very competitive league. Once the playoffs started, we had reached a point where no one was going to beat us. We were going to win that championship.
"It was a great spot for me. It was summertime, Ruth (Hamblin, a former OSU teammate) was in the same league (playing for Adelaide), and I was around hard-working players. It was a great place to spend my first season away from home."
Wiese quickly became a fan favorite in Townsville, population 180,000. The Fire play in a small arena,
called RSL Stadium, with a capacity of 2,500.
"We sold out for all the playoff games," Wiese says. "Townsville loves women's basketball. It reminds me a lot of Corvallis."
Australia, Wiese says, "is such a beautiful country. I'd always wanted to go there.
"Traveling across the country was amazing," she says. "Sydney was my favorite city — and I'm not biased because it's my name. I got dropped off at the Sydney Opera House on one trip. I'm thinking, 'I'm actually staring at something I've seen so many times on postcards or in textbooks.' The people are so nice there. I avoided crocodiles and sharks, too, so I came out a survivor of all the wildlife."
From Australia, Wiese returned to the U.S. and attended the training camp in South Carolina as 34 players contended for 12 positions on the national team that will play in the World Cup in Spain in September. Wiese has international experience, having played with the U.S. team that won gold at the World University Games in South Korea in 2015.
"It didn't feel like a tryout," says Wiese, who also was to participate in a training camp session this week in Seattle. "The veterans spent time teaching us new players the ropes and the expectations involved. To think about being on that national stage at the highest level possible — it shakes you a little bit.
"It wasn't super intense, but it was awesome to get to know a lot of the women as people away from gym, to compete with them and learn from them. It was a huge honor to just be at the camp."
Wiese will be in L.A. on Sunday for the start of the Sparks' training camp, but without a guaranteed contract. The Sparks own Wiese's rights, but under WNBA rules, only the top six players go to camp with guaranteed deals.
"I still have to try out and make it," Wiese says. "In the WNBA, it's about finding a team that needs you, and that you can fit into their system. Hopefully, that's the case for me with the Sparks. I'd love to play in L.A. for the duration of my career. But there is that business aspect. You never know what's going to happen."
Wiese is unsure if she'll return to Australia next season.
"I'm keeping my options open," she says. "I wouldn't be upset if I ended up back in Townsville, but I want to see if there are teams in Europe that are good fits as well. (Townsville officials) want to sign me again and that is an option.
"I'm not worried about the financial part. It's going to be about what's going to be best for me living in a foreign country for a few months."
Wiese says her time at Oregon State and playing for Rueck prepared her well for pro ball.
"You learn so many lessons, not only at the university but playing in the Pac-12, the best conference in the nation," she says. "To go against competition like that every weekend, plus going against your teammates every day in practice, was the best preparation.
"Your pro career is what you make of it. At Oregon State, I learned to set up good habits and to do what I have to do if I want to be a professional. I'll be able to fall back on that. I am thankful every day that I ended up at Oregon State, for basketball purposes and for being a person in general. It did its job, and then some."