OSU’s von Oelhoffen will return to Maui County roots

Von Oelhoffen

The Maui Jim Maui Classic will arrive in December at the Lahaina Civic Center with a local angle for the host team.

Talia von Oelhoffen, the daughter of Molokai High School legend Kimo von Oelhoffen, is an integral part of the Oregon State women’s basketball program as a second-year freshman guard.

She can’t wait to play basketball on the same LCC floor that her father did — Kimo was a Super Bowl champion for the Pittsburgh Steelers during a 15-year NFL career that ended in 2007 and a multisport standout for the Farmers when they did not have a football team.

“I’m really excited, I’m hoping that maybe we can have fans so some of my family can come,” Talia von Oelhoffen said. “But even if they can’t, I can hopefully see some of them. Just to play at a place that my dad used to be at, and just to be in Hawaii — I haven’t been over there very much and it’s a big part of my family. So, just to get over there is really exciting.”

Von Oelhoffen knows she will back where much of her family roots still live.

Oregon State’s Talia von Oelhoffen will play for the Beavers on Dec. 17 and 19 at the Lahaina Civic Center. The freshman guard is the daughter of Molokai native Kimo von Oelhoffen. OREGON STATE ATHLETICS photo

“I take a lot of pride in it,” she said. “Obviously my dad’s whole side of the family is over there, so just having all of the family over there — and then even though I wasn’t able to ever live there or grow up there — just living and growing up with my dad and hearing all of his stories, just learning about the culture, it means a lot to me.

“So, whenever I am able to get over there I just really appreciate it. I still feel really connected to it even though I’m not always physically over there.”

The Beavers will play Idaho on Dec. 17 and Northern Iowa on Dec. 19 at the LCC. Idaho and Northern Iowa will face off on Dec. 18.

“It almost feels like it’ll be a home game for me, assuming that I have all my family over there,” she said. “For sure, it’s really special and I’ve never been able to play over there, so it’ll be really fun, for sure.”

In a rare move, von Oelhoffen joined the Beavers midway through last season after leaving Chiawana High School in Pasco, Wash., because her senior season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She scored 2,392 career points in high school, placing her on pace to set the Washington state record for scoring had her senior season not been canceled.

As a 17 year old, she was a Pac-12 Conference All-Freshman Honorable Mention after joining the Beavers. She averaged 11.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, shot 44 percent from the floor and 43.4 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to my dad about playing in Hawaii, not specifically where we’re playing, but I think if we can have fans, he’ll definitely come,” von Oelhoffen said.

OSU head coach Scott Rueck is overjoyed to have a Maui County connection on his roster. The last time the event was held here, in 2019, Lahainaluna High School graduate Fiemea Hafoka was the floor leader point guard for San Jose State when the Spartans were part of the tournament.

“It’s special and she’s special,” Rueck said. “Through the recruiting process and getting to know her, I didn’t know her heritage before. And then you started to say, ‘OK, oh, that’s Kimo’s daughter. Oh, Kimo of Boise State and, oh, Molokai.’ And learning that the story of her family was very special.

“And you know I love the state of Hawaii in general, so that was special to hear where he was from and once she committed to us, you know, Maui is a part of our program. For her to get to come back home and play, hopefully in front of family, is going to be very special.”

A five-star recruit and the No. 14-rated player in the country by Prospects Nation, a Jordan Brand Classic All-American, a three-time Adidas All-American, a Washington state 2B Player of the Year and state champion in 2018-19, von Oelhoffen is already a leader for the Beavers, who enter the season ranked No. 14 in The Associated Press Top 25.

She was one of two players chosen by Rueck to represent the Beavers at Pac-12 Conference media day earlier this month.

“Yeah, I’m having so much fun, we have so many new pieces this year and we’re really just … we’ve gotten to know each other so much better and we’re learning how to play together,” von Oelhoffen said. “We have so much talent on this team and just to see this kind of building, putting all the pieces together over the past couple months is really exciting.

“It was good to have an offseason with the team after kind of just joining in the middle of the season and not being to connect with anyone on a deep level. We had our team retreat a few weeks ago where we all just got a lot closer.”

All of that adds up to a loaded, talented group for OSU.

“I think fans are going to be really surprised — or maybe not if they have high expectations — just about how deep this team is and how far we’re going to go,” von Oelhoffen said. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year.”

The Beavers will be frequent flyers in the next few weeks as they build up to their Pac-12 slate.

They start the season with four games in Corvallis, Ore., then travel to Daytona Beach, Fla., for tough matchups with Michigan and Notre Dame in late November. They return to Corvallis for a game against Pacific on Dec. 1 before going to New Jersey to play Monmouth on Dec. 10 and then Philadelphia to play Villanova on Dec. 13.

Four days later, they will play Idaho in Lahaina.

“Last year they weren’t able to play very many preseason games, which kind of hurt them going into Pac-12 play,” von Oelhoffen said. “So just to have that tough schedule before Pac-12 play — it’s one of, if not the toughest conference in the country — just to go through some of those battles and experience playing on the road and just learning and growing together is going to be really important for us.

“It’s going to be a harsh stretch, but I think we’ll be ready and it will only make us stronger going into conference play.”

Rueck is overjoyed to be coming back to the Valley Isle after the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. The 2020-21 OSU season was affected by COVID-19 restrictions all year long.

“We are excited for anything that’s remotely normal,” Rueck said. “And we had our tip-off dinner a couple nights ago and it was the first time we were back with Beaver Nation in person. And it was just, ah, it was so refreshing to be back with people in that environment and it was easy to forget how special it is. And it was really easy to be reminded of how amazing it is and how much we missed our fans.

“That was a sign of normalcy and this tournament has become a big part of our fabric of our program. Coming over, I don’t know exactly what our limitations will be, but we love to pour into the community for Maui and we love to be supported by the community.”

Rueck always has his players visit elementary schools and read to local youngsters on their trips here. The other teams in the event annually join in the reading tradition, too.

While there is no definitive word if that opportunity will be allowed this year, Rueck is hopeful.

“It’s always bigger than basketball with me,” Rucek said. “And our tournament on the island is an example of that. So, it’s paradise to all of us, so we’re excited to go and experience one of the most beautiful places anywhere and play the sport we love there. And whether it’s 100 percent normal, 50 percent normal, it doesn’t matter to us.

“It’s just getting to a place that we love and doing what we love. So, we’re dreaming about it.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.


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