Beavers excited to be back on Maui, reach out to keiki

Oregon State’s Mikayla Pivec shoots around Notre Dame’s Jessica Shephard and Jackie Young during the Beavers’ 72-67 loss on Nov. 19. Oregon State, Nevada, Utah State and Montana State play in the Maui Jim Maui Classic today and Saturday at War Memorial Gym. Albany Democrat-Herald via AP / Mark Ylen photo

Oregon State’s Mikayla Pivec shoots around Notre Dame’s Jessica Shephard and Jackie Young during the Beavers’ 72-67 loss on Nov. 19. Oregon State, Nevada, Utah State and Montana State play in the Maui Jim Maui Classic today and Saturday at War Memorial Gym. Albany Democrat-Herald via AP / Mark Ylen photo

KAHULUI — Marie Gulich didn’t have sports role models coming to her school to read to her class when she was growing up in Cologne, Germany.

As part of the Maui Jim Maui Classic, Oregon State University’s 6-foot-5 senior forward gets the opportunity to give that experience to Valley Isle youth.

For the second straight year, teams participating in the Maui Classic, a four-team women’s basketball tournament hosted by Oregon State, went to local elementary schools and read to students.

“I’m really super excited to be able to inspire little kids, and especially girls who aspire to be a basketball player or an athlete in general,” Gulich said shortly after arriving at Kahului Airport with the Beavers on Wednesday.

The tournament starts tonight at War Memorial Gym when Utah State (1-4) faces Montana State (4-2) at 5 p.m., with No. 21 Oregon State (3-2) taking on Nevada (3-3) in the following game. On Saturday, Montana State and Nevada play at 5, followed by Oregon State against Utah State.

Marie Gulich is averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds a game this season for the Beavers. OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY photo

Marie Gulich is averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds a game this season for the Beavers. OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY photo

“I’m super excited, I love Maui and the weather is nice, we have the ocean,” Gulich said. “I love the community service and having people come support us. That was really cool, having people come support and watch us on Maui. It’s a unique experience.”

Gulich was named to the 50-player watch list for the Naismith Trophy on Wednesday — she is averaging 15.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and has blocked 22 shots in five games. She is excited to be growing a tournament hosted by the Beavers on Maui.

“I think it’s very unique and I’m very proud that our program is able to do that,” Gulich said. “I hope that we can continue to come here and play here every year. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a good trip for our program, a good trip for the team, good team building.”

The Beavers’ losses this season were by five points to No. 3 Notre Dame and by seven to No. 14 Duke, which came in their last game in Durham, N.C., on Saturday.

Mikayla Pivec, a sophomore guard from Lynnwood, Wash., is second on the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game, leads in rebounding (8.4) and has nine steals in five games. Kat Tudor (13.6) and Taylor Kalmer (10.4) also average double-figure scoring for the Beavers.

Oregon State forward Janessa Thropay reads to students at Pomaikai Elementary School on Thursday. Nevada visited Kamalii Elementary, while Utah State visited Kihei Elementary — Montana State was unable to visit a school due to a flight conflict. Brand and Brush photo

Oregon State forward Janessa Thropay reads to students at Pomaikai Elementary School on Thursday. Nevada visited Kamalii Elementary, while Utah State visited Kihei Elementary — Montana State was unable to visit a school due to a flight conflict. Brand and Brush photo

“I remember we went to some local elementary schools and read to some of the kids and a lot of those kids came to watch us,” Pivec said of last year’s Maui experience. “These games are huge for us, they can be great confidence boosters going into the rest of the games we play. I know we have high expectations.”

Oregon State coach Scott Rueck was excited to get back on the War Memorial Gym court after last year’s inaugural success — the Beavers practiced on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. after arriving at about 4:30. They won both of their games here last season.

“Last year, I don’t think it could have gone any better for year one,” Rueck said. “We left with just nothing but a great experience, great memories. It was a feel-good weekend, so who wouldn’t want more of that? So we’ve been waiting in great anticipation to come back.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Maui Jim Maui Classic

The Beavers’ Mikayla Pivec receives a lei from a student. Brand and Brush photo

The Beavers’ Mikayla Pivec receives a lei from a student. Brand and Brush photo

At War Memorial Gym

Today’s Games

Utah St. vs. Montana St., 5 p.m.

Oregon St. vs. Nevada, 7 p.m.

Saturday’s Games

Montana St. vs. Nevada, 5 p.m.

Oregon St. vs. Utah St., 7 p.m.

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