The return of Drey Mingo from a torn ACL is nothing considering that she very nearly died two years ago from a terrifying bout with meningitis. Her return, as outlined by Daniel Thompson in the Exponent this week, has already led to a national award:
Mingo’s resiliency was acknowledged on a few weeks ago as she was awarded with the Giant Steps Courageous Student-Athlete Award by National Consortium for Academics and sports at the 2012 Giant Steps Awards Banquet and Hall of Fame Introduction ceremony.
Today, at Media Day, coach Versyp spoke about Mingo and her role on a team expected to contend for the Big Ten title.
Versyp on Drey Mingo: "Some people have forgotten she’s on our team." Granted 6th year by NCAA in offseason. #B1G— mike carmin (@carminjc) October 25, 2012
That's the way a lot of people feel. Mingo was very limited two seasons ago and last year she did not play at all. Getting back a 6'2" post player is always beneficial.All-Big Ten selection Courtney Moses will be a big difference maker too:
Finally, it would not be Purdue if it wasn't for defense:
So that is that. Purdue is already ranked No. 18 nationally, so it should be another exciting season for our ladies. Unfortunately, Baylor, who was 40-0, is the overwhelming favorite to repeat.
Here is the full transcript today from coach Versyp:
Well, we're just excited for the season to get going. We have quite a few returners, but we have a very good recruiting class that came in as freshmen that need to do some good things for us if we want to continue to be successful and have a good ride into the Big Ten and play well at the end of the year.
Q. Are there one or two freshmen that you look at that you think are capable of stepping in and having a significant impact right away?
SHARON VERSYP: I'm hoping at least three of them will come in and do some significant things. Taylor Manuel, a post player down low, will come in and do some things. Doesn't matter how long she plays, but she's very productive.
A backup point guard, April Wilson, who's a freshman, will come in. She's really grasping things right now and really understanding our offenses and she's really poised. She always defers to others so she's that ultimate point guard that will make sure that everybody else gets involved, and she's last, in her mind, to score the ball.
And then maybe Hayden Hamby, who scored a lot of points in high school, hopefully she can come in and shoot the three very well. She's just a very physical 5'8", 5'9" guard.
Q. You've got Drey Mingo back for a sixth year, which is a good deal, but how much does it mean to your program to get her back for the sixth year after what she's gone through the two previous seasons, and how is she right now?
SHARON VERSYP: Well, it's fantastic news. Some people have forgotten that she's on our team, which I appreciate that you recognized. But with Drey, the biggest thing is she's such an amazing human being, she just won a giant step award, courage award. I was with her last week in Orlando, and just to be around her as a human being, you just want her to have a great year. It doesn't matter what her team does, it doesn't matter what her skill set can be, she's been in school for about six years now and has only played like a year, year and a half, so it would be nice if she could just be a young woman that has had a great college experience this last year at Purdue.
She's doing fantastic. She still has hearing loss in her left ear, so that will never come back. But for her playing and her ACL and all of that, she's very strong and pretty much has picked up where she left off and is very healthy.
Q. You look at the names on the preseason list, if Drey gets to the point where you think she can get to this year, is she a Player of the Year type of player? Is she a top five type of player? Could she have that kind
of a year?
SHARON VERSYP: I totally believe so. Again, if she stays healthy -- you know, at the end of the year after she had her illness and she was only 65, 70 percent then, people -- more or less fans and audiences got to see what she was about, being able to score down low very effectively against any size whatsoever. She has a great three-point shot. Her rebounding ability and defense has improved. If she's healthy, she should be one of the top players in the Big Ten.
Q. Can you talk about replacing the production that Brittany Rayburn brought last year now that she's graduated?
SHARON VERSYP: With Brittany you can never replace any player that you lose. The biggest thing obviously because she scored and she was that go-to player, but it's her just understanding our system, her understanding what I wanted. She played as a freshman, so she just really had the mindset of what we needed and when we needed it. That's what we're going to have to overcome more so than anything.
The scoring we can try to replace with two or three different people. That will be big. But I'm really relying on KK Houser to really understand, her and Courtney Moses, of having the mentality that Brittany had of understanding what we need in game situations and just understanding my mind.
Q. We've talked a lot about the improvements you've tried to make offensively in the off season, but where is your team at defensively right now, and how far do they need to go to get to the level that you want?
SHARON VERSYP: We always play defense here at Purdue, so I've just tried to work on our offense a little bit. Our defense is going to be very strong because we're the most athletic we've ever been at Purdue since our staff has arrived. We're very quick. We've got a lot of length. We've got great size down low, 6'5", and then Taylor brings a different type of physicality with just her body type.
So we can do some run-and-jump; we can do a lot of different things. We just have more depth, so hopefully we can play that 9, 10 rotation defensively. And obviously working on offense we put a lot of shots up this summer and hopefully we can put some more points on the board.
Q. The dynamics that you use between KK Houser and Courtney Moses last year, will you use them in a similar way or tweak it?
SHARON VERSYP: No, we'll still use them in a similar way. There could be a time where I put April Wilson, KK and Courtney Moses on the court at the same time, really three fast, very quick guards that all can score the ball very well. We have four players that can play the point guard, which is great, so we have a lot of ball handlers, including Dee Dee Williams, in that group. But Courtney needs to score the ball. She's our three-point shooter. She has to take up the slack for Brittany's loss, and she just has an amazing mentality.
With those two on the floor, we're energized; the excitement is there, and they both understand, obviously, what we want on the court defensively and offensively.
Q. I'm sorry to switch gears for a second, but you've got three new coaches in the conference. Can you talk about the impact that's going to be on the season and future recruiting?
SHARON VERSYP: Any time the Big Ten has kind of gone through that over the last probably five years, when you have a different group, a different philosophy, coming in from different areas of the country, they've been proven winners. It's great for our conference. It'll strengthen our conference, and obviously the recruiting bases are very different. The three new ones are going to be great, like the ones that came in last year and the year before.
Hopefully now we can keep our coaches solid now for 5 to 10 years in their careers, and that's when the Big Ten is really going to kick off.
Q. Specifically with the new coaches, can you talk about Curt Miller? He said he wants to close the borders in the state of Indiana. How do you see him building that program and maybe competing with you to get some of those kids down the road in Indiana and trying to renew what hasn't been much of a rivalry recently, has been more one-sided in your favor?
SHARON VERSYP: It's a tough question because I'm not Curt. I'm worried about closing my own borders in Indiana and recruiting nationally and being the best that I possibly can be for our program.
In any institution you just have to know what your brand is. You have to know what your system is and the type of student athletes you can recruit at each school. That's where all of us kind of lose sight. We try to maybe go and do something different, but we are who we are. I have a lot of respect for Curt. He's a great guy, a great coach, and he will turn it around there.
Q. You guys made a great run last year in the Big Ten Tournament. How have you built off of that in the off season and then in this preseason?
SHARON VERSYP: Well, the biggest thing for us is when South Carolina beat us at home, they were quicker, more athletic, stronger, and tougher. That's the game that we keep going back to. When you see our student athletes now, their bodies are totally different. They really put in a lot of work in the sports performance area. You'll be amazed probably at all of them, but KK has really -- her body type is very different now.
We have to be stronger, and we have to be more athletic. We want to be the best in the Big Ten, but we want to be one of the best in the country, just like everybody else that comes up here and talks. Our Big Ten has to continue to prove and win in the NCAA Tournament. We've had a game that we really look back on a lot.