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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 5

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Page 68 of 92

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED OLUME 26, ISSUE 5 69 losses, as the Spartans and Sooners wore them down in- side. Perhaps some of that is expected, with Purdue being young last season on the interior, but regardless, the phys- ical deficit should be an eye-opener. If McBryde makes a big jump — and after losing to the Sooners, she admitted that she was too skinny to deal with the OU muscle — then Purdue has a player it can build around. At 6-2, she proved to be a versatile forward, one capable of offensive explosions due to her inside scor- ing arsenal. She averaged 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game but had more impactful outings too, like when she had 22 points and eight rebounds in a win over Minneso- ta, part of a four-game stretch mid-Big Ten in which she averaged 16 points and six rebounds per game. "Her ceiling is very high, and that's what we've dis- cussed with her, but it's on her," Versyp said. "Players have to go in the gym, have to put extra time in, have to work on their bodies, they have to have proper nutrition. They have to do things on their own. … I think Dom really found herself. She is saying all the right things, but now the proof is in the pudding. Her ceiling, there's no limit. We've got to get her to score." Purdue needs other contributors up front. Bridget Perry played the 4 as a junior last season and could continue to get frontcourt minutes, but she might be able to slide out on the wing more often next year. But that can happen only if centers Bree Horrocks and Nora Keisler develop into more effective defenders and rebounders. Incoming freshman Ae'Rianna Harris, a top-50 player in the country, is an excellent defender, shot-blocker and rebounder who should get minutes at power forward. Be- cause of her physicality, the 6-1 forward might be able to help from Day 1. "Ae'Rianna is bigger, stronger and more athletic," said Versyp, comparing Harris to the current frontcourt op- tions. Purdue's backcourt could be a big question. The loss of Wilson to graduation cannot be overstated; the point guard was Purdue's leader, vocally imploring the Boiler- makers to be at their best and taking over in critical mo- ments during games. A second-team All-Big Ten selection, Wilson was Purdue's leader in scoring (14.6), assists (5.6) and steals (2.2). Keys could fill in from a leadership standpoint, with Versyp calling the junior one of the "most natural leaders who has come through the program." But the point guard duties largely will fall to sophomore Tiara Murphy, who played only a small role as a true fresh- man. Last season, the diminutive backup averaged only 6.1 minutes per game but showed flashes of offensive po- tential, hitting 10-of-21 three-pointers. "I think Murphy has to fill her own shoes, not some- one else's shoes, her own shoes," Versyp said. "And she's got to work on her physicality, that's No. 1, resilience, but Ashley Morrissette is going to have the ball in her hands a lot. You've got one who is a senior, and Murph is that true point guard, but they're both scoring guards. They want to shoot. I don't have to beg them to shoot, and they're going to get people involved." Murphy, who missed six games in the middle of the season because of a stress fracture in her leg, says she's ready for the challenge. Her play in the loss to Oklahoma was a positive, when she briefly sparked the Boilermakers with a couple three-pointers in the second half, battling through a bout with the flu that had kept her bedridden the day before. "Of course, I have a lot of work to do," she said. "But I've had somebody that I really look up to at point guard in April Wilson. She had a great impact on me. Watching her I think helped me grow as a basketball player and a point guard." Purdue's other backcourt options will be young in in- coming rookies Miracle Gray, Dominique Oden and Lami- na Cooper, the last of whom is starting her career this fall, rather than last. Cooper, a former top-50 recruit nationally, tore her ACL in the spring of 2015 then didn't enroll at Purdue in the fall, but she signed a scholarship tender in April and will be with the Boilermakers this summer. The pieces have Purdue thinking it can keep moving forward. "I think that our team next year is going to be young but hard to beat," Murphy said. "We're going to be a force to be reckoned with." j

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