By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– As the girls of Stayton Basketball walks off the court from their first-practice of the year, Wendi Nyquist was walking through a few questions she had with her fellow coaches under Lady Eagles Head Coach Darren Shyrock.
Twenty years ago this year Nyquist, then Wendi Lamb, was a senior guard for the Southern Oregon University Raider Women’s Basketball team that was coming off a Final Four, 25-9 season.
That year too, 1996-1997, Nyquist set the record for steals in a season of 106 (all the records will say have Wendi’s maiden name of ‘Lamb’ next to her name), one more than teammate Sherry Bainbridge had that same season.
“It’s phenomenal, coming from Toledo it wasn’t necessarily a winning environment and when we first got to Southern, it wasn’t either,” said the Toledo-grad Nyquist. “We won some games, we were a good team but to learn how to win is a process and to be able to do it with that group of girls and get to the point where you knew every time you stepped on the floor, whether your the best team or not, you had a chance to win and that confidence is something that I appreciate.
“That environment gave me that. It was great.”
When Nyquist entered Southern Oregon University (then Southern Oregon State College until her senior season in 1997-1998), the program was just becoming what it was today starting in 1990 and during her time the program slowly built from that foundation entering the 2000s. Since then, SOU only had three losing seasons since the 1990-1991 season and that Final Four team she was apart of as a junior, was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2013.
Nyquist too had 173 assist that junior season before outdoing that the during the 1997-1998 season as a senior with 185 to set that gold standard that still stands today in 2017, but as humble as she is naturally, Nyquist credits her teammates for the opportunity to even get close to that record that still stays today after all these years.
“I came into a situation where I didn’t know if I was necessarily ready but they needed a point guard and I was the one they chose so I got to play a lot,” she said. “It was the teammates around me that made it great, if they didn’t catch the ball I wouldn’t be able to have an assist.”
By the time she graduated, Nyquist held and still holds records in career assist (630), season assist (185, 1997-1998), career steals (349) and season steals (106 1996-1997). Her name are also on the top five list for season assist (third at 173, 1996-1997), season steals (fifth at 94, 1997-1998) and most steals in a game (four-way tie at nine, her’s during their game versus Concordia on February 9, 1996).
“It’s one of those things that I think there’s a lot of pride there because those are not records, especially with steals it’s all about defense and it’s about grit and it’s about hard work,” said Nyquist. “So for me, that’s a special one because you have to work really hard. I mean steals are something, it’s you right? It’s you versus the person in front of you or it’s you versus the ball on the other side of the floor, but it really is hard work and work ethic.
“Assist is one of those things that your teammates have to make the basket, but there’s a lot of pride in there. I don’t talk about it much because it’s apart of who I am, but it’s not who I am today.”
Speaks volumes to the humbleness about the always friendly Nyquist, enjoying the accomplishments yet not defining her as a person.
And as her playing days wrap up, an opportunity to start coaching the game she’s played came about during her senior season to coach under now-husband Randy Nyquist over at her alma mater Toledo High School and eventually leading to her trading in the sneakers on the court to a seat on the bench guiding young girls like she did while on the court of play.
Learning under Randy helped mold the X’s and O’s of basketball that Wendi knew from playing and translate that into coaching the newer wave of girl basketball players coming up through the ranks as she did during the 1990s.
“I knew the fundamentals, but Randy knew how to coach and so he gave me something that I didn’t necessarily have in college, in a sense that he could coach anything and kids believe that they have a chance to win,” said Nyquist. “And so the great part about working with him is, I knew the X’s and O’s part, I knew the fundamental part….but being apart of his team and watching the way that he coached kids and gave them a chance to win. That’s kind of what put me, made me a better coach.”
She learned and incorporated that into her own coaching style, most recently in Oregon City before coming to Stayton where Randy is the Head Football coach now, Wendi Nyquist was the JV2 Coach for the Lady Pioneers program and helped out with the youth program and coached at the youth tournaments on the weekends and coached at the High School during the week.
During this time, it was about the time her daughters Alli and KJ were making their way through the ranks as their mother was coaching.
“I coached Alli as a JV2 player and then when she swung up to Varsity, I helped her. KJ, I coached her in the summer more, as a High Schooler I did not have a chance during the regular to coach her but I got to be apart of her youth program and coach her in the summer before she was at the High School.”
She coached both a bit over the summer time when they came to Stayton this season together as they went through the summer basketball schedule with the Eagles.
And as the season starts up again, this time in a new place for Wendi Nyquist, as a former stud athlete turned coach, she’s been showing kids the ways in the hard work and sacrifice that got her in the record books in college to hopefully one day see those same kids do what she did twenty years ago this year one last time.
“Nowadays I help kids see the court the way that I see the floor,” she starts. “My job now is help them see where those assist angles are, where those open lanes are and how to pass that ball. Now my job is to help the kid read the floor defensively, ‘do i get underneath their toes? Do I give them space? Do I shade them left? Do I shade them right?
“So it’s one of those things where I take a lot of pride in that I did it,” Nyquist added on the records she made in college. “But more than anything now it’s ‘ok, how can I help someone else do that same thing?'”
The passion, the fire, the drive to play and now to coach stems from just simply loving the game. Loving going into the gym and being involved with the game of basketball still drives Wendi Nyquist even years after her last basketball game.
“It’s one of those things that I truly love the game. I’m the kind of person who would open the gym up at any time of day, any time of night,” starts Nyquist. “If kids want it, I want to help them, I just…there’s something about this game for me that i just love to be around it.
“I love to be in the gym. You know when we were up in Oregon City, we in the summer we spent up until August pretty much every day, all day long, in the gym and my husband would be like, ‘your never home’,” she laughs. “As much as I miss my family, I love it. I just…I guess that’s why I enjoy working with kids now.
“It doesn’t matter if the kid is a Division-1 athlete or never touched a ball before, you can make a difference and that’s kind of where I’m at,” she continues. “I always try to say, ‘whoever is interested, I want to help them’. It’s not about ‘that’s the best player, I want to work with them’, it’s ‘how can I make a difference in whoever wants to learn’.”
As the new chapter of her coaching career begins this week in the 4A program, the willingness to make a difference is still there as Day one of many at Stayton High School comes to an end for Nyquist.