April 3, 2024 

Departures may just be starting at Oregon State, Washington State

Leger-Walker, von Oelhoffen's jumps to the portal a painful reality

What’s done is done. And what’s done, for the immediate future anyway, is Pac-12 basketball. For the two programs that remain in the conference — Oregon State and Washington State — there are two years to determine a long-term future.

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Gather up the money owed by the departing 10 schools, from the conference’s contract with the Rose Bowl, from the units collected during the men’s NCAA Tournament — a subject that we are going to have to come back to at some point — and the Beavers and the Cougars have resources to explore their options.

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Those options include reconstituting the conference with the addition of at least six more schools, waiting to see how many more realignment blow-ups there will be in the next 24 months, or if all else fails, joining another conference and putting the Pac-12 in the history books for good.

But these two years are full of uncertainties. And young women with a limited time to play college basketball may not have the time or the tolerance to see how things turn out.

On Tuesday, two days after the Beavers lost to South Carolina in the Elite Eight, Oregon State point guard Talia von Oelhoffen entered the portal as a graduate transfer.

Up north in Pullman, Charlisse Leger-Walker, a four-time All-Pac-12 selection – also entered the portal.

One of top scorers in program history, Leger-Walker missed the final 11 games of the season with a torn ACL. She will presumably be ready to play at a new school by fall.

Reality has arrived. It’s already painful and it could get more so.

Von Oelhofffen has given four years to Oregon State. She entered the program during the 2020-21 COVID season out of high school in January after her final high school season was canceled. She said on X Tuesday evening that she is graduating from OSU.

The Oregon State players faced questions from the national press about whether they would be remaining with the program, considering that both OSU and WSU will be moving to the mid-major West Coast Conference for the next two years while the Pac-12’s future is sorted.

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Von Oelhoffen sidestepped the direct questions about the future in Albany.

“And all year with conference realignment, all the things that could be distractions or things that you could talk about, we’ve just put our heads down and controlled what we can control and got to work and stayed together and stayed connected, and it’s gotten us really far,” von Oelhoffen said, adding “There’s no reason to look at next year.”

The questions rankled Beavers head coach Scott Rueck.

“It’s hard hearing your school talked about the way it’s been talked about and in a way, devalued,” Rueck said. “We’ve been drug through the mud, just like today, listening to you guys talk. I don’t see what y’all see.”

At Washington State, with the loss of Athletic Director Pat Chun to rival Washington, the uncertainty is intensified. A source close to the program said that head coach Kamie Etheridge found out about the move to the WCC earlier this season on social media.

Leger-Walker’s injury – she had surgery in February — derailed the program’s chances to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year and despite being an NCAA bubble team, the Cougars reached the semifinals of the new WBIT Tournament.

Leger-Walker’s departure definitely hurts. Leger-Walker’s older sister Krystal followed Ethridge to Washington State from Northern Colorado and the sisters were the catalysts for turning a long-struggling program into a winner.

Because of her injury, Leger-Walker will miss the opportunity to play with the New Zealand national team this summer in preparation for the Olympics in Paris. Time to heal, another season of college basketball, and better exposure at a different school, could put her in a better position to be drafted into the WNBA and begin her professional career.

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Von Oelhoffen will also be looking to join a major conference program with a chance to compete for a championship. As an experienced point guard that just led her team to the Elite Eight, she will have many suitors.

But for the programs they leave behind there is disappointment, dismay and justifiably wondering how many more will follow them.

Rueck and Ethridge likely have significant rebuilding jobs to do as they enter a new conference next fall. Because what’s done may not be done yet.

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Written by Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has covered women's basketball nationally for nearly three decades. Smith has worked for ESPN.com, The Athletic, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Pac-12.com and WNBA.com. She was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame in 2015, is the 2017 recipient of the Jake Wade Media Award from the Collegiate Sports Information Directors Association (CoSIDA) and was named the Mel Greenberg Media Award winner by the WBCA in 2019.

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