Coach Versyp has a real luxury, or perhaps challenge, at the Forward or what is referred to as the 4 position in a three guard offense. There are three outstanding players vying for playing time for possibly one position. That isn't to say that Coach V won't play two forwards at the same time, but that might be the exception rather than the norm. Coach has already stated that she expects Ae'Rianna Harris and Dominique McBryde to hold down the position. That may be true in playing minutes, but I still expect Bridget Perry to actually start games at the 4 position. Coach usually starts upperclassmen then brings in underclassmen off of the bench. While Bridget Perry is great at the 3 guard position, so is Andreona Keys. It will be interesting to see how this works out in playing time at the 3 or 4 positions, but it is a situation where Coach V has some really solid options to choose from. Also, against a shorter lineup, Harris with her leaping ability could potentially play some at the Center or 5 position, which would allow for at least two of these three players to hold down the 4 and 5 positions. Expect Perry to start at the 4 position then transition as the game progresses to share time at the 3 or even 2 positions.
Start at the 4 position, also play the 3 and 2 Positions
Senior, Height 6-2
Bridget Perry is an awesome team player. She often makes plays that she doesn't appear capable of making. She had a stellar high school career and has continued to develop her game at Purdue. In a forward frame with guard like skills, she can really give opponents a lot to handle. Last season, as Dominique McBryde came on in the second half of the season as a power forward, Perry went to more outside shots and sank plenty of them. So she played a lot of stretch forward and 3 guard. She plays tough defense and rebounds well. With April Wilson's graduation, Perry will be one of the players expected to pick up some of the scoring. Expect her to put up a lot more 3 point attempts along with plenty of pull up jumpers, something she really excels at.
Perry is a selfless and seemingly tireless competitor. She definitely leads the team in time spent on the floor, having taken a dive for a loose ball or getting hard fouled, or whatever happened. Definitely one of my favorite players on the team to watch in action. Her Senior leadership will be vital to a successful season.
Reserve Forward at the 4 position, first to come off the bench
True Sophomore, Height 6-2
Through the end of last season, Dominique McBryde was the highest ranked (according to Hoopgurlz) recruit of the Coach Versyp era, as the number 30 recruit nationally in the class of 2015. As the season progressed, she earned more and more playing time, grew in confidence, put in all out effort, and was voted the most improved player over the course of the season. She didn't hit many outside shots but in the post area she got into beast mode and excelled. Layups, blocks, rebounds, she really made major contributions as a pure power forward. With freshman phenom Ae'Rianna Harris coming in at power forward, expect McBryde to expand her range to become more of the stretch forward Coach V wants her to become. Expect her to expand her range out to pull up jumpers all the way out to the 3 point line. But that won't keep her from power in the post!
Without anyone's permission I have nicknamed her "Ambidextrous" due to her uncanny ability to post up from either side of the basket. She never appears rattled and looks to be all about business, but once in a while she will show some really fired up emotion, especially after a big block or an old fashioned 3 point play. That enthusiasm spreads quickly to her teammates. Despite a kind of logjam at forward, McBryde will get her playing time in, especially figuring that she will continue to build on development she showed as last season went along. It may be a cliche but the sky is the limit with this player!
Reserve Power Forward
True Freshman, Height 6-1
Don't let the height fool you. This player can leap out of her shoes, even able to dunk the basketball. Outdoing McBryde, Harris has now set the bar higher as the highest ranking recruit (according to Hoopgurlz) of the Versyp era at number 20 in the 2016 class. I have been saying for some time now that what we need is a top 10 recruit to become a final 4 contender. While I'm still holding out hope for that, we'll gladly settle for a number 20 recruit. Recruiting analysts have been saying since Harris was a sophomore that she had a frame ready for college ball.
In high school she was used mostly as a rebounder and a shot blocker. At Purdue, Coach V is already getting Harris into more of an offensive mindset. She has been characterized as doing a lot of other things besides scoring that need to be done, whether that be blocking out, playing tough defense, and her specialties of rebounding and shot blocking. Opponents will come into the post thinking they can shoot over Harris, then she will leap into action and swat the ball into the third row. I can't wait. She is literally going to make an immediate impact especially in the Big Ten Conference. There just are not many players at all with her overall aggressive mindset, leaping ability, and athleticism. McBryde and Perry will stretch out for shots further out, but expect Harris to stay in fairly close to the basket. And make hay she will. One more thing, and that is that Coach V has stated that Harris is a very quick learner, that she only has to be told once and she gets it. That will lead to a lot of playing time for a true freshman.
It is still hard to say how the logjam at forward will play out this season, but it sure is a welcome dilemma to have.
As you can tell, I am very hyped up about all three of our forwards. Maybe sometimes all three of them will be in the game at the same time. At the very least, all three should remain fresh with the luxury of having someone just as good filling the spot to give another one a breather.
The season is only 11 days away at least until the opening exhibition game on November 6 at Mackey.
I'll post one more article on the Centers, then another on the overall prospects for the season. It won't be long now.