By James Day
The Oregon State University women’s basketball team heads into March Madness with a 29-4 record. The Beavers, who played in last season’s Final Four, have won or shared three consecutive Pac-12 championships.
And a couple of Silverton kids have helped toughen up OSU for the hard work ahead.
Trevor Bledsoe and Preston Kirk, who helped lead the Foxes to third place in the 2013 Class 5A state tournament, are members of the Tune Squad, male intramural players at OSU who practice three times a week against the women’s team. It’s a common approach used by college women’s coaches.
Bledsoe, a 6-6, 230 lb. senior majoring in psychology, and Kirk, a 6-2, 175-lb. senior majoring in finance and management, generally serve as the scout team, playing defense against the Beavers’ first string.
“It’s a different look for them,” Kirk said.
“And it’s a better look for their starting five than the backups,” Bledsoe said.
“We’re definitely at a physical advantage,” Kirk said.
“But they are in much better shape,” Bledsoe added.
Kirk often runs up against Beavers’ standout 6-1 senior guard Sydney Wiese.
“If we steal a ball a couple of times she’ll tell us to keep on doing it because it makes them better,” Kirk said.
Bledsoe, meanwhile, spends most of his time battling in the post with 6-5 junior center Marie Gulich, an international player from Germany.
“She’s a great player. She beats me up pretty good,” Bledsoe said. “Marie apologized to me yesterday … she elbowed me in the head four times.”
The Tune Squad name comes from the Michael Jordan/Bugs Bunny movie Space Jam. Members wear Tune Squad shirts at practice, and Kirk said the coaches “appreciate that we give up our time and make the effort.”
“It’s a fun opportunity,” Bledsoe said.
How would that 2013 Silverton squad, which included Division I player Zach Gengler, have fared in a game against the OSU women? Kirk and Bledsoe turned toward each other and smiled.
“I think we could have beaten them… but not every time,” Kirk said.
“We definitely would have been outcoached,” Kirk said as a gesture of respect for OSU’s Scott Rueck rather than criticism of Darren Shryock, the coach of that 2013 Fox team.