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En Garde! – Purdue Women’s Backcourt, 2011 Edition

     First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all!  Purdue women's basketball is once again underway.  Supporters and pundits alike expect a solid season, as the team has currently climbed to #15 in the rankings.  For those of you who are new to the program, or if you just want a look at development since last year's preview, I'll be running down the guards on this year's roster.  A look at the forwards will be forthcoming soon.  Also, the girls have handled the patsies of the non-con well, and I'll take a brief look at that tomorrow.  Unfortunately, though, the biggest news so far this season is bad: star-crossed F/C Drey Mingo tore her ACL in an intersquad scrimmage three weeks ago.

     It's hard to overstate how big a blow that was to the team.  Drey is a star.  She was a near-automatic double-double last year when she was healthy, despite a life-threatening illness almost exactly a year ago.  She could shoot (50% from 3), she could rebound, and she could score with her back to the basket in the post.  She protected the rim and battled opposing centers to a standstill.  In short, Drey was going to take over for OSU's departed Jantelle Lavender as top center in the conference and as Big Ten Player of the Year.  All that vanished in a heartbeat during a meaningless scrimmage against Indiana State.  It was a deveastating loss for Purdue and for the conference as a whole.

     But you know what?  I don't care anymore.  We took a paragraph to grieve, now it's time to attack.  This is a damn good team even if they'd never heard the name Drey.  These players are their own team now, and Drey's ACL shouldn't even be mentioned for the rest of the season.  I say this not to belittle Drey, but to make the point that no one, not me, not Coach Versyp, and most of all not the players, can just stand around wishing she was there to save them.

             #5, 6-0 SG Brittany Rayburn - Sr.

            14.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.1 spg, 89.4 FG%

With Drey out, Brittany returns to her accustomed role as the unquestioned lead scoring option.  A quiet scorer very much in the mold of E'Twaun, her meal ticket is slashing to the basket for pull-up jumpers and layups.  She is almost always around  her average (XXXX) every night, and you don't always notice her doing it.  She is a servicable shooter from outside, and if she gets hot she is capable of dropping 30 on any given night.  She also rebounds very well from her position, and isn't afraid to get rough in traffic for the board or loose balls.  She is a solid defender who usually stays in front of her man, and has a real knack for drawing charges.  Basically, she's everything you want out of a do-everything scorer and senior leader.

 2011/12 Projection: Starting 3-guard, Leading Scorer


            #22, 5-6 PG KK Houser - RS So.

            (2009 stats) 5.8 ppg, 1.7 apg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 spg

There's a saying about bad break: "When one door closes, a window opens."  That's what you have with KK and Drey, as KK returns from an early-season ACL tear last year.  A classic PG, she is a capable distributor to the likes of Rayburn and Courtney Moses.  She is also capable of getting to the rim and finishing despite her lack of size, and she posts a nice scoring average along her assist totals.  While she occaisionally struggles with turnovers, she also has a real talent for picking the opposing PG's dribble that more than makes up for it.  She has struggled shooting the three in the past, but her work in practice seems to be paying off: while not a sharpshooter, her shot is now something defenses have to respect instead of sagging off to help.

2011/12 Projection: Starting PG


            #15, 5-6 PG/SG Courtney Moses - So.

            11.7 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.2 spg, 3.2 rpg, 40.9 3FG%

The third member of our three-headed backcourt monster is best described in one word: fearless.  Her game is all about pushing the tempo and attacking the rack with reckless abandon despite her small stature.  Devilishly fast and crafty on the break, she regularly gets points in transition even without having numbers with her.  She is also the team's designated sharpshooter from deep, and she's never afraid to take a shot.  While she ran the point in HS, as well as last year without KK, she moves to what I consider her more natural position of scoring 2-guard.  She is certainly capable of handling the ball, but getting her free on off-the-ball screens and movement will get her better 3s, while she'll still get plenty of chances to drive.  She's also a deceptively good rebounder, as she excels at using her speed to run down long rebounds, and she's currently second on the team with 5 a game (5-6!).

2011/12 Projection: Starting SG, 2nd-leading Scorer


            #43, 5-10 SG/SF Chantel Poston - RS Jr.

            2.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.0 apg

Chantel is the classic energy player off the bench.  She brings a ton of athleticism to the table.  She's probably the only one on the team who can challenge Sam Ostarello for her high-jump state title.  As a result, she is excellent at challenging and even blocking perimiter shots.  She also moves her feet well when defending on the perimeter.  On the offensive end, she is a threat to drive, and she also has a very nice mid-range shot.  Unfortunately her range doesn't quite extend behind the arc, but she also knows her limits and doesn't launch poor shots from out there.

2011/12 Projection: Rotation G


            #20, 6-0 G Dee Dee Williams - So.

            2.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.9 apg

Dee Dee is a bit of an enigma, much like GDB for the men's team.  I mean that not in the sense  of the sheer dumbassery GDB displays regularly, but in the sense that they are both long, thin, athletic G/F hybrids without defined positions.  She's a strong defender, both on the perimeter on on help-side blocks, and uses her length to disrupt passing lanes.  Her offensive game is a work in progress, however.  She doesn't have much range on her shot, nor is she a standout driver.  She'll chip in a handful per game, but her true value is as a lockdown defender.

2011/12 Projection: Rotation G

            #4, 6-1 G Torrie Thornton - Fr.

            HS Stats: 15.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.6 bpg, 2.4 apg, 2.8 spg

Torrie is a stat-stuffing Carmel native who was a member of their state champion team as a freshman and who has twice been on a top 10 AAU squads.  She was a member of the 2009 AAU All-American team, and also starred in track as a member of a regional champion 1600 meter relay team.  In other words, she's a proven winner.  At Purdue, she'll most likely have to fight for minutes this year, but that doesn't mean she won't get any.  Coach Versyp runs a deep team, and is not shy about following the production if it's there.

2011/12 Projection: Deep Bench G