After the 2020-21 season, the Ohio State women’s basketball team was in a tough situation. The Buckeyes lost its two starting forwards to the transfer portal, setting up a potential predicament in the paint.
Forward Rebeka Mikulášiková stepped in to start every game for the 21-22 Buckeyes, on its way to a share of the Big Ten regular season title. Last season, Mikulášiková continued to play and had some of the best success she’s had in scarlet and gray.
That changed as the season continued, and now the lone starting forward for Ohio State is part of a group of three who all have the potential to start for head coach Kevin McGuff this season. Mikulášiková has the experience with the program. Will that and offensive prowess put the Slovakian back in the starting five in her final NCAA season?
Name: Rebeka Mikulášiková
Class: Graduate Senior
High School: Piaristické Gymnasium (Slovakia)
2022-23 Stats: 10.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, .610 FG%, .313 3FG%, .745 FT%
Entering the 22-23 season, Mikulášiková was in the best conditioning of her basketball career, and the start of season saw it pay dividends.
In the first eight games of the season, Mikulášiková averaged 19.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, far above career averages. In those games, the forward stood out against Boston College, scoring a then career high 23 points, plus 10 rebounds for a double-double.
Against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Mikulášiková was huge when the team needed her the most. In a game where six players combined for 21 points, Mikulášiková led the team with 31 points, alongside 30 from now graduated guard Taylor Mikesell, in one of the Buckeyes’ 19 straight wins to begin the season.
From there though, the big performances were sporadic. Following those eight games scoring at least double figure points, Mikulášiková went a handful of games in single digits, then exploding for five three-pointers against Oregon in a 27-point performance. Then the scoring dipped for another handful of games before leading Ohio State with 25 points against Nebraska on Jan. 14.
The offense continued to dip through the rest of the season. Mikulášiková, who started the year hitting multiple threes in a game 10 times in the first 19 games, only hit more than one a game once through the remainder of the year. Then, against Minnesota on Feb. 8, Mikulášiková suffered a sprained ankle after four minutes and never saw the starting lineup again.
In the forward’s place was transfer forward Eboni Walker. Mikulášiková, once she returned from the injury, became a player off the bench for McGuff. The forward entered the game but if early shots were missed, often went back to the bench. It appeared that McGuff opted for the more mobile, and defensive-minded, Walker over the offensive big who showed the potential to be prolific in and outside of the paint.
What to Expect
Mikulášiková is a forward in the prototype of other European bigs. Not only can she move around the paint and find open layup opportunities, but has the ability to hit shots from midrange and from deep.
McGuff’s 5-out offensive scheme thrives when someone like Mikulášiková is hitting shots from deep. It draws out bigs to give opportunities to players like forward Cotie McMahon to attack the basket. If bigs don’t bite, the 6-foot-4 Slovakian can hit shots over smaller guards on the perimeter.
Last season, Mikulášiková showed great improvement inside the paint. The extra conditioning both her and McGuff credited for her strong start allowed Mikulášiková to be more agile around forwards and centers, plus allowed Mikulášiková to log more minutes.
This season, expectations may fall in where Mikulášiková comes into the game. Will she regain her starting position and be an offensive catalyst or will McGuff use her as an offensive spark off the bench?
Ohio State’s paint presence now features three different looks. There’s Mikulášiková’s diverse scoring, Walker’s mobility and speed against bigger and slower forwards and Michigan State transfer forward Taiyier Parks. The former Spartan is McGuff’s most physical option in the paint; someone who can make opposing offensive playmakers think twice about trying to make moves to the basket.
Will McGuff go with a regular starting No. 5 position or rotate depending on the opponent? It’s a good problem to have for the Buckeyes this season.
Being a graduate senior, and McGuff’s forward of choice more often than not over the past two seasons, lends to the idea of Mikulášiková starting again. With another year of conditioning in McGuff’s system, Mikulášiková could show that same offensive power that fans saw glimpses of last year.
Also, with Mikesell now in the professional ranks, offensive might is a question mark. Should Mikulášiková have that shooting stroke, starting her could be a necessity to make up for all the points lost from last year’s squad.
When Mikulášiková is on, she is a First Team All-B1G player. Here’s video to prove it, from Mikulášiková’s career day against Rutgers, in New Jersey, last season.
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