When she finished her playing career at Florida State in 2001, Brooke Wyckoff had no intentions of becoming a collegiate basketball coach. In fact, she was fairly adamant about it.
After leading the Seminoles to their first winning season in nine years as a senior, she went on to have a successful playing career in the WNBA and in Spain.
As time went on, however, her ideas of coaching began to change.
“Coach Semrau was the one who got my mind going about it,” Wyckoff said in a 2017 interview. “I really hadn’t considered coaching on the collegiate level. Eventually, those conversations (with Semrau) led to her offering me a position and when she offered me the position, it just felt right.”
Wyckoff has been an assistant coach at Florida State since 2011 and her experience has been instrumental in helping Semrau deliver one of the strongest decades in the history of the program.
But now as Semrau has had to step away from the program to take care of her mother (who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer earlier this year), Wyckoff has been asked to fill the shoes of her greatest mentor, in a role she once never imagined she would – head coach.
“We’re grateful that Coach Sue is able to be with her mother, that’s the most important thing,” Wyckoff said. “She is able to be there for her family. I’m grateful for the opportunity and the trust that she has put in me to hold this thing steady.”
There might not be a person more qualified to hold the reigns of the program in Semrau’s absence.
Wyckoff’s 1,350 career points is the 16th-most in school history. She ranks second all-time at FSU in career blocks with 209 and seventh in rebounds with 804. Since taking over the defense in 2015, her defensive mind has helped the Seminoles hold opponents under 60 points a game in multiple different seasons. That had not been done once prior to her arrival.
In her years as an assistant, Wyckoff has been widely praised for her ability to not only recruit talented players to Florida State, but also connect with her players in a way that is extremely rare. She has recruited some of the most prolific players in the last decade of the program, including All-Americans Shakayla Thomas, Leticia Romero and Adut Bulgak.
Specifically in the case of Romero, Wyckoff’s experience playing professionally in Spain allowed her to become fluent in Spanish – something that really won Romero over and convinced her to bring her talent to Tallahassee.
The 2013 class that was gathered by Wyckoff would go on to be the winningest class in program history with 106 victories.
Even with such a resume, Wyckoff still acknowledges the pressure of maintaining the standard set by Semrau.
“I think I’d be crazy if I didn’t feel pressure,” Wyckoff laughed. “We are an NCAA Tournament team. That is the standard as a program. But it’s not automatic. It takes a lot of thought and work every single day and it’s on the head coach to figure out if we are heading in the right direction … For me personally, this is a moment that I have, to prove what I can do. The good news it that I have Coach Sue with me. She is a phone call away. It’s a blessing that a lot of first-time head coaches don’t get. I’m excited for the challenge but recognize it’s a huge one.”
In a year of weird circumstances and disheartening situations, it is all about perspective for Wyckoff and her group of young ladies. A lot about what it means to be a collegiate athlete, is finding the things in life that motivates oneself to be better, faster and stronger.
For this year’s team, they are rallying around Wyckoff to help deliver on the expectations that Semrau has set for the program, even in her absence.
“It puts it all in perspective for them,” Wyckoff said. “Covid helps put things in perspective too, in terms of the gratitude to be able to play and have a season. Coach Sue is essentially sacrificing and giving up something she loves to be with her family. It helps give the girls a sense of what this is about, what it means, and the responsibility that they have to play as hard as they can – to do whatever they can to not take this for granted and do their very best in her absence.”
Wyckoff expects that the entire team will continue to develop in their own unique ways, working with them individually to take the steps needed to create an identity for themselves on a team that is down three starters from last year.
“We have a lot of hope and are excited about who is going to step into those shoes,” Wyckoff added. “There are a lot of players that are ready to do that. I think we have a group that has the experience and talent to hold the standard.”
Despite all the talk of holding the standard and filling the shoes of one of the country’s best coaches (even momentarily), Wyckoff has seemingly taken on the challenge with a smile and open arms. And she is ready to lead a determined group of young players in what continues to be a peculiar year.
Not too shabby for someone who, once upon a time, never wanted to coach.
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