Depth a concern for the Boilermakers
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) -- Purdue's deep run into last year's postseason had plenty to do with the depth of its bench.
The Boilermakers finished 31-7 last year and advanced to the national championship game in large part because of a bench that was one of the best in the nation.
Purdue's bench averaged 22.4 points and 12.3 rebounds per game last year. That was 29.4 percent of the team's scoring and 35.9 percent of their rebounding. The Boilermaker bench outscored opponents' benches 850-546.
The Boilermakers had Shereka Wright and Shalicia Hurns as the 1-2 punch off the bench for a team that lost 68-66 to Notre Dame in the national championship game.
Wright, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, was third on the team in scoring and rebounds and will start this year in the forward spot occupied the last four years by Katie Douglas. Wright was named a 2001-02 Naismith preseason candidate. The Naismith Award is given annually to the nation's best basketball player.
Hurns, who led the team in rebounding, was granted her release after she was suspended from the team for underage drinking and later charged with marijuana possession and leaving the scene of an accident.
Purdue has only 10 players on its preseason roster, and coach Kristy Curry said the lack of numbers will force the Boilermakers to play smarter, coach smarter and be in better condition.
"I think last season we were afforded a lot of depth, which is highly unusual given the quality of depth," Curry said Tuesday at Purdue's media day. "I'm not sure there was another team in America that had the kind of depth we had. We have to revert back to what's normal."
In Curry's first season, which ended with a second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, she kept her rotation to no more than six or seven players. Curry said she had less depth that season than this one, and she would play only five if she has to.
"I've done it before and I'll do it again," Curry said. "Just because we have 10 or 11 doesn't mean you're guaranteed anything. You have to earn it."
The letterwinners are willing to work for that time, if their participation in offseason conditioning drills was any indication.
"There's not one of our returnees that didn't show up at 6 a.m. every day this summer and did everything that was asked of them by our strength staff," she said.
Still, the Boilermakers won't rely as heavily on a full-court press or fast-break points so as not to wear themselves down, Curry said.
Lindsey Hicks and freshman Emily Heikes will come off the bench and play the post and Beth Jones and junior college transfer Mandy Davis will be the backups in the backcourt.
Point guard Kelly Komara, who was a freshman on Purdue's 1999 national championship team, said experience, not depth, would play a more important role in the Boilermakers' quest for a seventh Big Ten championship in 11 years.
"I think it could've been a problem, but this team is so dedicated," she said. "I think experience really outweighs depth. I'd rather have a team that's been to the national championship and knows what it takes to get there."
Curry said she won't use depth as an excuse.
"The depth thing is something we could probably all talk about, but I look at it as an excuse," she said. "That's how I'm going to approach it with this team. We're going to talk about what we do have instead of what we don't."