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Timea Gardiner is thriving and has Oregon State in the Elite Eight — and it's all thanks to a fluke scooter accident

ALBANY, N.Y. — As Timea Gardiner drove to the basket with less than 30 seconds left on the clock, her dad watched from the stands and tried to send her messages with his mind. Pull up, Timea, he thought. There’s a mid-range jump shot there for the taking.

Andy Gardiner played professionally in Europe for years, so he knows what he’s talking, or rather — thinking — about. Timea could have taken a jump shot. And in the middle of a 21-point, 11-rebound performance, she probably would have made it. But out of the corner of her eye, Timea saw Raegan Beers, and with two seconds left on the shot clock, she made a dump pass to her post for an easy layup.

“She saw a better play than I did,” Andy said with a smile.

In between hugs with other parents, and glances down to the court, Andy and his wife Cory have time to be grateful.

This moment is a lot for them. Their daughter just led Oregon State to a 70-65 win over Notre Dame for a spot in the Elite Eight. She’s playing the best basketball of her career. And she’s here. That’s what matters the most.

Not that she’s here in Albany, but that she’s here at all. Timea is having a well-deserved moment in the spotlight, but a year-and-a-half ago, she wasn’t playing basketball. She was in the hospital.

Oregon State's Timea Gardiner celebrates after her team's win over Notre Dame on Friday. (Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Oregon State's Timea Gardiner celebrates after her team's win over Notre Dame on Friday. (Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) (Greg Fiume via Getty Images)

Most of the Beavers have scooters that they ride around campus, and Timea is no exception. But one day, before the 2022-23 season, she took a corner too fast and flew off her scooter, spilling onto the ground. That led to an emergency room visit and a CT scan. The damage from the scooter accident was minor, but because of it, doctors found blood clots in Timea’s lungs.

“That was scary as hell,” Andy said. “But we were grateful for that scooter accident, because without that we wouldn’t have known about the blood clots.”

Timea was put on blood thinners, and was told not to play basketball for the next three months. Her health became the primary focus, and Timea had to spend the first half of her freshman season watching from the bench.

Cory remembers conversations where her daughter expressed frustration. But when she was with her teammates, Timea kept those negative feelings to herself.

“She handled it great,” teammate Martha Pietsch said. “I’m sure she had her moments, but she did a really good job of not letting people see that.”

The two of them are close, and because Pietsch can’t go home to her native Germany over breaks, she spends holidays with the Gardiner family. Even in moments when it was just the two of them, when Timea could have let her guard down and vented to her best friend, she kept her composure.

And during games she remained a vocal leader for the Beavers.

“She was always there for us,” Pietsch said. “On the bench and in practice, she brought energy every day.”

Oregon State's Timea Gardiner reacts after the Beavers' win over Nebraska on March 24. (Howard Lao/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Oregon State's Timea Gardiner reacts after the Beavers' win over Nebraska on March 24. (Howard Lao/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) (Howard Lao via Getty Images)

When Timea returned to action on Jan. 13, 2023, she made an impact right away. The sophomore is the best recruit in Oregon State history, ranked sixth in the class of 2022. Her talent came through despite only playing half a season, and Timea earned all-freshman honors in the Pac-12.

But it took her time to adjust to being back on the court, and to college basketball as a whole. It wasn’t until part way through this season that the 6-foot-3 forward hit her stride.

Timea is averaging 11.4 points, and 6.7 rebounds per game, and has scored in double figures in 15 games in a row. She’s also recorded four double-doubles in that span. And during March Madness, Timea’s numbers are up to 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest.

“It was tough for her last season, coming in with all those expectations,” Cory said. “And then to have her season halted the way it was … she started to get hit with a lot of self-doubt. ‘Am I fit for this? Can I do it?’ And we just told her to take it one day at a time.”

Cory knew recovery would come, and with it, success. So did Timea’s teammates.

“She’s a bucket,” Pietsch said. “I’m really glad that people are able to see her on this kind of stage. She’s always been an important part of our team, but she’s really thriving on the court, living for the big moments.”

And as for that scooter, Timea still rides it. And despite the accident, no one can object.

“Thank you to that scooter,” Pietsch said with a laugh. “Keep scooting, but be safe.”