As today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, we would like to celebrate some of the phenomenal female athletes who have played at Purdue over the years.
1. Stephanie White (basketball) White was a top high school player when she arrived at Purdue and she remained one of the top players in the country in college. White scored 2,182 points, third most in Purdue history; averaging 17.2 points per game over her career, second best in program history. She also amassed 578 assists, second most, and 277 steals, sixth best. Most importantly though she led Purdue to 34-1 record and National Championship in 1999. During the 1998-99 season, she set the school single season scoring record with 707 points. White was named the national and Big Ten player of the year in addition to being a consensus All-American that season and First Team Academic All-American.
After her career at Purdue was over she played five season in the WNBA before starting her career on the sidelines. She started in the college ranks before returning to the WNBA. After a few years as an assistant for the Chicago Sky she returned to the Fever, where she spent four years as a player. When Lin Dunn retired, White was promoted to head coach and in her rookie season led the Fever to the WNBA Finals, where they eventually fell in five games to Minnesota. White coached one more season with the Fever then, much to the dismay of us here at Hammer & Rails and Purdue fans everywhere, she took the Head Coaching job at Vandy. With White at the helm, the Commodores finished this season 14-16, 4-12, 13th in the SEC.
2. Katie Douglas (basketball) Douglas was key in Purdue’s run to the National Championship in 1999. She was twice named Big Ten Player of the Year, sharing it once, and winning it outright her senior season. Douglas took Purdue back to the National Title game in 2001 but they fell to Notre Dame. While wearing the Purdue jersey Douglas accumulated 1,965 points, 5th in program history, 727 rebounds, 526 assists, 3rd, and 327 steals, 2nd.
Katie Douglas had the most illustrious professional career of any Purdue Women’s Basketball alum playing 14 seasons in the WNBA in addition to several seasons overseas. Douglas was a five-time WNBA All-Star and four-time All-Defensive team. Her greatest accomplishment however was winning a WNBA Championship with the Fever in 2012. Douglas retired in 2015 is among the top in the league in history in scoring, steals, and three-pointers made.
3. Ukari Figgs (basketball) Ukari was instrumental in asserting Purdue as a Women’s Basketball power in the 90s. Figgs was the point guard on the ’98-’99 squad that won the National Championship. Ukari was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. During her senior season Figgs averaged 16.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 4.2 apg. Over the course of her career she scored 1,455 points to go with 490 rebounds, 409 assists, and 170 steals.
After graduation Figgs played five years in the WNBA winning a title in 2001 with the Los Angeles Sparks. With her playing career behind her Figgs put her Purdue degree to work as an engineer for Toyota. Figgs didn’t leave the game completely though enjoying various stints as an assistant coach at the high school level coaching boys and girls. In 2009 she joined Sharon Versyp’s staff as an assistant. In 2011 the Kentucky native returned home to work in UK athletic department as assistant athletic director for Women’s Basketball. Figgs has since left UK to return to Toyota.
4. Kara (Patterson) Winger (track & field- javelin) In college, Winger was the Big Ten Champion in ’05, ’08, and ’09. She also had a runner-up finish at the 2009 NCAA Championships.
Winger is a six-time USATF Outdoor Champion. She made her first Olympics appearance in 2008 in Beijing after winning the US Olympic trials. In 2012 she was runner-up at the trials despite tearing her ACL during the meet; She competed in London but did not get out of qualifying. Winger had her best Olympic finish this last year coming in 13th at the Rio Games. Kara is the American record holder with a mark of 66.67 m, which she set in 2010.
5. Lauren Sesselmann (soccer) Sesselmann was a standout for Purdue from 2001-05. By the time, Lauren graduated she held records for points, goals, assists, game-winners, multiple goal games, and shots on goal. Her success in college allowed her to pursue professional soccer and later play on the international stage.
Sesselmann played forward for the Boilers but was moved to defense early in her pro career. It was recently announced that Lauren has signed on with Santa Clarita Blue Heat of United Women’s Soccer; Sesselmann has previously played for the Houston Dash and F.C. Kansas City in the NWSL and Atlanta Beat and Sky Blue F.C. of the WPS.
Sesselmann has played for the Canadian national team since 2011. With the CWNT, Sesselmann won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Ariel Turner (volleyball), Drey Mingo (basketball), Amanda Elmore (rowing), Maria Hernandez (golf)