October 28, 2023 

Timea Gardiner ready to lead Oregon State ‘rehabilitation’

After missing three months because of blood clots, former top recruit ready to leave Beavers

It was about this time last year and Timea Gardiner was on her way to breakfast. She confessed that she was going “way too fast” on her scooter on campus, trying to navigate a turn, when the handlebar clipped a pole and sent her tumbling.

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The handlebars drove into her sternum, taking her breath away. But as she stood up and checked herself, all the limbs seemed fine. She would practice that day. This was no time to get hurt, with her first college basketball season at Oregon State just a couple of weeks away.

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The thing is, Gardiner — the highest-rated recruit in Beaver program history, ranked as the No. 6 recruit in the country — had already been feeling short of breath during practices and her chest was feeling a little tight, but because she has asthma, she assumed she had a cold or maybe was coming down with something. That night, after the scooter spill, the left side of her body started to spasm. The next day at the football game she attended with her teammates it happened again, this time even worse. Gardiner’s teammates took her to the emergency room, her mother on the phone from Utah the entire time.

What the doctors found was not what she expected. Blood clots in both of her lungs that were there before she fell, before the handlebars had also bruised one of her lungs. The doctors told her that had it not been for the accident, she might not have discovered the blood clots, which could have traveled to her brain, and possibly killed her.

“Honestly, when the doctors told me, my first thought was ‘When can I play again?’,” Gardiner said. “But after I realized how serious it was it became more about getting my health right, which was more important than putting a ball in a hoop.”

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Oregon State sophomore Timea Gardiner (30) is expected to be a big part of the Beavers’ 2023-24 season. (Photo credit: David Nishitani/Oregon State Athletics)

Gardiner, the McDonald’s All-American and Naismith Player of the Year semifinalist, is preparing for a sophomore season that will hopefully make up for the nearly three months she missed a season ago while on blood thinners and no-contact orders, and the three months she spent playing catch-up once she got back on the floor for the Beavers.

The Beavers are also looking to make up for some lost time. Hit hard by COVID cancellations, transfers and injuries, Oregon State is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since a run of eight straight NCAA appearances from 2014-2021, having reached the WNIT in 2022 and missing the postseason entirely in 2023. Beavers coach Scott Rueck has likened this period in his program to rehabbing an “injury” caused by COVID and that the program is again healthy and ready to shake up the top of the Pac-12 standings. Gardiner is a big part of that plan.

The expectations are big as well. Gardiner was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week in her first weekend back on the floor last season. While working her way back into game shape, she averaged 8.7 points and 3.5 rebounds a game, shooting 47.7 percent from the floor and better than 36 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. She scored in double figures in seven of her 15 games. She made two starts. Gardiner said the biggest challenge was on the defensive end, where the speed was difficult to ramp up to in such a short period of time.

“Timea weathered massive adversity as well as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Rueck said. “She missed three months of reps. When she came back, this conference is so good and it hit so fast, those reps mattered. So she wasn’t as impactful as she would have been of course. Now she’s had an entire off-season…it just feels right and it’s exciting.”

This season, Gardiner is going to be centerpiece, along with fellow sophomore — and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year — Raegan Beers and junior point guard Talia von Oelhoffen.

“I have so much more to showcase,” Gardiner said. “We have so many weapons this year and we are going to get up and really pressure people. I think we are going to press, play really fast and get out in transition.”

Picked to finish 10th in the conference race, the Beavers are in a position to disrupt the top-half of the Pac-12 standings in the conference’s final season and primed to return to the postseason. Oregon State and Washington State are the two schools whose futures have not yet been determined. Gardiner said the players are “curious” about what will happen moving forward, but not focused on that.

“We all chose OSU because of the culture. We love each other unconditionally and that this why we are here,” Gardiner said. “ I do think this year is different in terms of intensity and competitiveness in practice. We have expectations of where our team can be, that we can get it back to what it once was. We are ready to go.”

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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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