She paid her own way; now she leads the way

  • Updated: April 2, 2014 - 7:43 PM

Stanford senior lost scholarship, found redemption.

– Mikaela Ruef found herself an engineering job on campus last spring and started sporting a hard hat and safety glasses to pay for her final two quarters at Stanford, knowing she no longer had a basketball scholarship as a fifth-year senior.

The approximate price tag: $40,000.

Injuries to a pair of teammates opened up one the program’s 15 scholarships to Ruef after all. Now she has gone from the end of the bench as a freshman to unlikely Stanford Regional MVP who led the Cardinal back to the Final Four after last season’s disappointing miss. Stanford (33-3) looks to end defending champion Connecticut’s 44-game winning streak in the national semifinals Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.

Her voice hoarse and a backward Final Four hat with a piece of net hanging from it on her head, Ruef realized after Tuesday night’s win over North Carolina that it’s been quite a journey from her days “hugging the water cooler,” as coach Tara VanDerveer referred to her old sideline seat.

“Happy is not happy enough,” Ruef said. “It’s more than that.”

Ruef’s rise to NCAA tournament star has been a surprising one, especially since there were questions about whether she would return this season.

In a win against Penn State in the regional semifinals, Ruef, a forward, contributed 11 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals. She topped that performance with a career-high 17 points in Tuesday night’s 74-65 victory over North Carolina, making three three-pointers after coming into the game 7-for-51 on three-pointers in 131 games.

“It was by far her best game ever putting on a Stanford uniform,” VanDerveer said. “Mikaela downplays how much work she put into doing what she did tonight. She’s one of those early risers, and she was in the gym getting her shot up.”

Ruef is taking pressure off All-America forward Chiney Ogwumike.

“Ruef has become, I think, a much, much better complement to Chiney,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

Throughout the season, Ruef has been working 16 to 20 hours a week as a project engineer for Preston Pipelines. She was at 30 hours during the summer.

“I can’t explain it, but somehow everything seems to work out in my favor,” Ruef said. “It helped me grow as a person. I wouldn’t recognize myself as a freshman coming in here. I’m a completely different person. I think the job gave me a sense of responsibility. I had to schedule my days, ‘OK, I have to take time to get in the gym and work on my shot, work on my game so that I can put my team in the best position to get back in the Final Four this year.’ ”

Ruef impressed her coaches with her commitment to returning for one last chance at a Final Four, even if it meant paying her own way.

“We knew we didn’t have a scholarship, and she knew it, too,” associate coach Amy Tucker said. “She was working that summer and knew she was going to come back and have to pay for it for two quarters. That’s just the way it was going to be because she really wanted to come back. For someone who started on the 15th seat on the bench to now value the experience so much she wanted to pay for it, there’s not a better story of the kid who loves our experience.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco - LP: J. Peavy 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: K. Herrera 7
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 90 FINAL
Orlando 89
Brooklyn 86 FINAL
Boston 100
Washington 100 FINAL
New York 103
Cleveland 92 FINAL
Memphis 96
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Milwaukee 91
Atlanta 117 FINAL
San Antonio 107
Portland 86 FINAL
LA Lakers 94
Phoenix 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 108
Toronto 0 Postponed
Ottawa 0
Philadelphia 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Washington 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM


question of the day

Poll: Who should get the Twins' managing job?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters