Last year the Boilers had a tough season. They did not perform up to their expectations and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seventeen seasons. At some points of the season it looked as though more players were in street clothes on the sidelines than were dressed for the game. One thing I noticed though was that the girls never gave up. The highlight of the season had to be the upset of then #4 Ohio State in Mackey. That two point victory in late January showed everyone what this team was capable of. Three freshman KK Houser, Sam Ostarello, and Ashley Wilson led the Boilers to that upset win. All three played well last year, but did lapse into some stretches that you would expect from a true freshman. This squad is without a senior class. I wonder what the team will do on senior day? To me that just means that the future is bright for these young girls. They have the talent, but can they put it all together?
Before I can move on though I feel like I have to talk a little about what the team has lost. They will start the season without Jodi Howell and FahKara Malone. The first person I will talk about is FahKara Malone. She was tremendously fun to watch play throughout her career at Purdue. Her smile was infectious. She also played the point very well for the Boilers. She left the school as the all-time steals leader, and will be sorely missed. Her 351 steals as a Boilermaker will be a high bar for someone to go after. She just seemed to have a knack for getting the ball. She started at Purdue right off the bat due to issues at the point. She did not disappoint the crowd at Mackey very often in her four years at Purdue.
Jodi Howell also graduated last year. She was a sharpshooter that left the school with the record for the highest three point percentage in her career. Overall she made 90 three pointers during her Purdue career. She may be more remembered for her toughness though. It seemed as if Jodi was always battling some sort of injury. Last season she was either on the court playing, or on the bike keeping her knees warm. She gave everything she had to the team, and the fans appreciated her for it. Both FahKara and Jodi will be missed this coming season.
This year the team comes in ready for big things. Transfers Antionette Howard and Drey Mingo are ready to play after sitting out a year after transferring to Purdue. Mingo was named a team captain prior to the season, and has had a good pre season so far. Both Mingo and Howard should add some size and depth to the team. Other newcomers include 2010 Indiana Miss Basketball Courtney Moses. She is a guard that can help us right away. She showed in high school that she could distribute the ball as well as score. She was very good from behind the three point arc in high school. Another freshman Dee Dee Williams was a two time state champ at Ben Davis so we know she knows what it takes to win. I don’t have too much on these players because I have not seen them play yet. Here is a look at the players that I have seen play:
#5 Brittany Rayburn – The conversation of current players has to start with Brittany. Brittany has been a force since she first stepped onto the court for the Boilers. The junior guard led the team in scoring last season, and was second in assists and steals. She was on fire from the free throw line last season hitting hitting a school record 38 straight. She really is a game changer. She can hit the three, but can also slash to the hoop to get to the line. That might be part of what makes her so valuable. If she is not hitting her shots she will find ways to contribute. Her defense is one of those ways. She also will drive to the basket to get some points from the line. I think that the fans are still waiting for that day when everything comes together for her during a game. When it does the other team had better watch out. We have two more years to watch her play, so we had better enjoy them.
#41 Alex Guyton – Alex spent the first half of the season injured last year, but came back to help the team. She was limited her first few games back from injury, but she still was a presence on the court. You could see what she is worth to the team when healthy last January when she shut down Jantel Lavender. She is a big physical presence in the middle that Purdue really needs. Her toughness and athleticism were sorely missed early in the season last year. The team really seemed to bump it up a notch when she started playing more minutes at the end of last season. A healthy Guyton good news for the Boilers.
#43 Chantel Poston – Chantel missed all of last season after injuring her Achilles tendon. She was one of the most athletic players on the court though her freshman season. She could jump, shoot, and just bother the heck out of the opponents. It will be fun to see her on the court again. You could see how much she wanted to be out there last season. She looked more amped for games than some of the players who were playing last season. She should come out firing this season. Her defense will help the team out tremendously.
#40 Chelsea Jones – Chelsea was amazing to watch last season. She seemed to get better every game. Her biggest moment of last season was probably her game winning shot against Wisconsin. She really started to come into her own. It will be interesting to see if she can keep improving this season. She should only improve with another big in the game to take some of the pressure off of her down low.
#22 KK Houser – KK was another player who improved as the season went on last season. She had moments of brilliance early, but was also benched for mistakes. She did show what she could do by scoring 18 points against Notre Dame, and in the upset of Ohio State. Along with her points against Ohio State she did a great job on Buckeye point guard Samantha Prahalis in Mackey last year. Prahalis is very sure of herself to put it nicely so it was fun to watch someone frustrate her. She was completely thrown off her game by Houser. This season may hinge on how she plays the point. With FahKara gone she will pick up the slack at point guard for the Boilers.
#32 Sam Ostarello – What player was more fun to watch last season than Sam? During her freshman season she quickly became known as Sam O, and the people around me started watching her on and off the court. She really seems to have fun playing the game. She also was a vocal player from the bench who always seemed to be in the game. She was the leading rebounder in eleven games during her freshman season. Her athleticism and rebounding will be key this year. She needs to settle in to become a little more consistent. It also would not hurt for her to improve her free throw shooting as well.
#54 Samantha Woods – Sam is the biggest enigma on the team. When she is confident she can be a force. When she is timid though she tends to make mistakes that land her on the bench. She had great moments like the 17 she scored in her first game against Valparaiso. She also hit over 44% of her three pointers last season. Hopefully she can keep her head up and have a good season. She may be down a bit on the depth chart, but her experience off the bench would be a big lift.
#52 Ashley Wilson – Ashley is the kind of player that I think every team needs. She is not afraid of contact, and will do whatever it takes to score and rebound. As a true freshman she showed a lot of guts. If the team was not playing inspired Coach Versyp would insert Wilson in the game to pick up the pace. One memorable series from last season was Ashley getting a defensive rebound, and taking the ball all the way down the court herself to get an and one. Ashley will get a late start to the season due to injury. Her return to the lineup will be a big plus.
Key Games – Looking at the schedule I found two key stretches that the Boilers face this season along with a couple other key games. I thought that it would be good to look at those stretches here.
- December 2nd Maryland
- December 5th @ Notre Dame
- December 9th @ Texas A&M
This early season swing will be key for this team. The Boilers play in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge against Maryland at home followed by road games at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. This will be our first real indication of where this team stands. I am not saying this is make or break for the team, but it would be a wake up call for the rest of the country if they could win out during this tough seven day stretch. The second key stretch occurs at the beginning of February. No Big Ten game means any more than another, but this stretch features the three projected to be at the top right now including our only game against Michigan State. Here is a look at that stretch:
- February 3rd Iowa
- February 6th @ Michigan State
- February 10th @ Ohio State
Five days before the Iowa game Purdue has Inidana at home as well. If the Boilers want to make a splash in the Big Ten this season it will have to happen during this stretch. This could easily be a stretch where the team goes 0-3 with the tough competition. A hot team going into this week of the season could put us right at the top of the conference.
Big Ten Predictions – With the regular season ready to start I think that it is much too early to try and predict how the Big Ten season will shake out. That will not stop me from trying though. Here is a quick look at how I see the eleven teams right now. This may change by the end of this calendar year when the Big Ten season is ready to start.
- Ohio State
- Michigan State
- Penn State
No scientific analysis went into the predictions, but a feeling of how the teams will stack up. Ohio State has to easily be the #1 team in the conference. I am way too much of a homer though not to have Purdue in second. I think that they have the talent to make a run this season. Friday will be my first game of the season, and it will be fun to watch the regular season start. Most experts have Purdue ranked sixth to start the season. I really think that they are better than that. Last season the team was ranked to start the year when the fans in the stands really did not think they were a top 25 team. I would think that the opposite is true this season. Time will tell on these girls though. I may have too high of an opinion of this team, but how can you not going into the season? I am very excited to take my seat Friday night to watch the start of the season. With any luck the team will be playing again on either Sunday or Monday so that I could see them twice in the same weekend.