When forwards Mikaela Ruef and Joslyn Tinkle arrived on the Farm as freshmen in 2009, they quickly formed a bond of friendship that continues today.
That friendship was obvious Feb. 24 when the Stanford women’s basketball team celebrated Mikaela and Joslyn’s Senior Day and defeated Oregon 74-50. That victory was aided by a record-setting performance by junior forward Chiney Ogwumike.
Senior Day festivities followed the game as the video board showed highlights from the two players’ careers set to “Thank You for Being a Friend,” TV’s “Golden Girls” theme song sung by Cynthia Fee.
Families join the seniors
Their teammates formed a reception line as Joslyn with her parents and Mikaela with her parents and grandparents walked to center court to receive flowers and hugs from head coach Tara VanDerveer.
Announcer Betty Ann Boeving enumerated each player’s various accomplishments. As of that game, Mikaela has played in 88 games and has made 21 starts in her career. She missed all but three games last season because of a foot injury.
Joslyn became a member of the team’s 1,000-point club two days earlier against Oregon State. The afternoon’s game was her 134th.
After posing for photographs, the team went to the locker room for a short break before returning for a Behind the Bench session honoring the seniors. “It’s bittersweet,” associate head coach Amy Tucker said of Senior Day. Tara spoke of her pleasure in “seeing improvement and maturation in these young women.”
Sara calls Mikaela ‘one of my best friends’
Speaking for the team, junior guard Sara James talked about how she had become good friends with Mikaela and then Joslyn during her freshman year. Mikaela “has always been one of my best friends,” Sara said. “I’m really excited that she’s coming back next year.” She also noted how smart Mikaela is, especially in math.
Because Mikaela redshirted during her junior year, she has another year of eligibility. She will be back on campus because she has been accepted in a Stanford graduate engineering program.
Tara is hopeful that Mikaela will also be on the team next season, so she might celebrate another Senior Day then. It has been the team’s practice to honor players who come in together even if one of them is returning, Tara said. “This is practice” (for next year), she said.
She said she first saw Mikaela play at a tournament in Atlanta and was impressed when she hit 3’s. Tara also was pleased that Mikaela was a good student – the first of several steps for admission to Stanford.
Mikaela’s father, Mike, speaking for himself and her mother, Katie, said “To raise a daughter like Mikaela is, in a word, challenging.” He once lost an argument with her when she was only 3 years old, he said.
As a third-grader, she played on a fourth-grade team and knew its opponents’ plays. “She has a mind for basketball,” he said.
Because her grandparents used to live in Connecticut, they wanted her to go to UConn. Her parents hoped she would go to Ohio State in their home state, but after her grandparents moved to the Bay Area, the Ruefs felt better about her choosing Stanford.
“She made the right choice. She’s with the right people,” Mike said.
One fan asked why Mikaela wears 3 on her jersey. She said that she randomly chose a jersey with that number in second grade, and after that, things seemed to get better for her. There have been a lot of 3’s or multiples of 3’s in her life. “I do things in 3’s,” she said.
Tara cites Joslyn’s basketball instincts
Speaking of Joslyn, Tara said she first saw the Montana resident play at a tournament in Arizona. “She just took people apart. … This is the type of player we want at Stanford,” she said. She cited Joslyn’s good basketball instincts, which probably come from her parents, Wayne and Lisa, who both played basketball. Wayne is still involved as head coach of the University of Montana men’s team.
“She is total high energy, very enthusiastic,” Tara said. She can play just about any position. She’s “a wonderful young lady,” and “we’ve got a lot (of games) left in her,” with two more season games plus the Pac 12 and NCAA tournaments.
The coach repeated a story that Joslyn had related earlier in her Stanford career. Tara was visiting the Tinkles in Montana as part of the recruiting process. As she was leaving, Lisa said to Tara, “Watch out for the bear.” With that, Tara “sprinted to her rental car,” Wayne said a few minutes later.
Speaking for the team, Chiney said that Joslyn “is an extension of her family. They’re just beautiful people. … She’s always motivated. It shows on and off the court. She’s such a special person” to her team.
Chiney added that she’d like to frame Joslyn’s signature red bow after she leaves Stanford.
When Wayne was playing basketball professionally overseas and had the family with him, Joslyn made her first jump shot when she was in first grade.
Now “We feel honored to be part of the Stanford family,” he said. Stanford “was an amazing choice for her” because of its academics and the basketball team and staff. When she signed, he told Tara that Joslyn is very special. Since then, “you’ve done remarkable things with her,” he said to the coach.
After graduation, Joslyn said she wants to pursue her basketball career overseas or wherever it takes her. Eventually she might be interested in coaching and would like to team up again with Mikaela.
Speaking of the afternoon’s game, Tara said, “We finished out strong,” and credited the seniors’ leadership.
Joslyn and Mikaela are the team’s captains, along with Chiney.
Chiney surpasses sister’s records
Chiney’s accomplishments in the afternoon’s game were precedent-setting. She set a Stanford record with 52 double-doubles, surpassing the previous record of 51 held by her sister Nneka, who graduated in June. With 24 rebounds, she set the team’s single-game rebound record, again eclipsing Nneka.
She also became the sixth player to have at least 1,000 career rebounds (she has 1,010 so far) and 1,000 points (1,600 so far). Others who have achieved that milestone are Nneka; Kayla Pedersen, ’11; Jayne Appel, ’10; Nicole Powell, ’04; and Val Whiting, ’93.
Besides her 24 rebounds, she scored 27 points and made four assists, three blocks and four steals in 34 minutes. The only other player in double figures was sophomore guard Amber Orrange, who had 12 points to go with four assists, one rebound, one block and one steal in 31 minutes.
Mikaela had 5 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal in 19 minutes. Joslyn added 4 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 32 minutes.
The team made six of its 28, or 21.4 percent, 3-point attempts. Sara and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson each had two, while sophomore forward Taylor Greenfield and redshirt freshman Jasmine Camp each had one.
Although this was the last regular-season home game, fans can see the team at Maples at least once more time and most likely twice when Stanford hosts the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament March 24 and 26. The Events part of this FBC website has details.