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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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Page 67 of 81

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 68 V ernard Hollins had early morning wakeup calls. Frequently, one would come after a receiving a text the night before, asking him — telling might be a more fitting descriptor — to get to the Sport One Fieldhouse in Fort Wayne at 5 a.m. the next day. And almost as often, he'd be there, ready to open the doors for Karissa McLaughlin. Then a standout at Homestead, the current Purdue freshman loved those early hours, as she often could get one-on-one instruction from Hollins with few other distractions. "It shows a little bit of self-discipline," said Hollins, the president and CEO of Always 100, an organization in Fort Wayne for young athletes. "It shows you how badly she wants it. It's not like your mom or dad is getting you up and pushing you. It's kind of like, 'Hey, you know what? She's getting up at 5 a.m. and driving herself to the workout.' "That was really important. It showed me the drive she had and the vision that, 'I want to get better no mat- ter (what), no matter the weather, no matter whether in season or out of season.' She was still getting up and getting her workouts in." Nothing much has changed now, although McLaugh- lin doesn't have to send texts anymore. At Purdue, she has 24-hour access to Mackey Arena's Cardinal Court, so she can come and go as she pleases and doesn't need anyone else there either, and instead can use the re- bounding machine to catch and pass balls back to her. "That's what I've always wanted to be known for, someone who gets into the gym, someone who works hard, is trying to get better," said McLaughlin, Purdue's starting point guard. "My point of emphasis is to always be in the gym when no one else is because you never know who is in the gym getting better. And when I hear that someone else is, I know I better get there. I've al- ways had that competitive mentality in me to want to improve and be perfect right away, even though I know that's not how it works, because it takes inches at a time to be great. That's always been my mentality." It's a reason why McLaughlin is succeeding in her first season at Purdue. The Indiana Miss Basketball — she led Homestead to a Class 4A state championship before winning the state's top award in the spring — averaged 9.3 points and 3.2 assists per game through Purdue's first 16 games. But it's not been smooth. After having minimal impact in a couple of non-con- ference losses, to Georgia Tech and Ball State, Coach Sharon Versyp benched her, shifting Andreona Keys, who had been playing power forward, to the point. In those two losses, McLaughlin had made only two of her 11 field goals, combined for five turnovers and had only four assists. But even more than the numbers, it was that the Boil- ermakers were struggling to get into a flow offensively in the halfcourt, a responsibility that lies almost entire- ly with the point guard. "It was actually a good thing, just to kind of evaluate first and then come off the bench and play," McLaughlin said, "and not have to think, 'Oh my gosh, I'm starting,' and all the stuff that comes with it. "It was just a part of a huge piece of building confi- dence. I think it was a good move, and I did learn from it." By early December, McLaughlin had returned to the starting lineup, and although that largely was a positive move, there were bumps. The 5-foot-7 rookie twice had seven-turnover games and another with six, but she went into January having not had a single one in two games of a three-game stretch. And her shot-making, with a team-high 32 three-point- ers in 2017, helped to offset some of the turnovers. "You can see the highs and lows," Versyp said. "When she doesn't have to think as much, it's good, but that can go for any player. Early on, she was trying to figure out what to run, rather than just playing the game, so I think that's going to be a big difference now. She can just play because now she has the experience. She has to be able to handle the basketball. We have to be really strong." Purdue doesn't have many other options. Backup Ti- ara Murphy is gone from the program after being be- coming academically ineligible following the fall semes- ter. Miracle Gray sees occasional minutes off the bench, but the sophomore is still developing and can struggle against quicker, more athletic opponents. Keys can shift to the 1, but that's not ideal; Purdue wants to keep the 5-10 senior in the frontcourt or on the wing, where her versatility is most impactful. So that leaves McLaughlin, who signed with Purdue in the spring after originally signing at Florida before the

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