March 6, 2014
by Courtney Waldon
Four weeks. Four weeks have passed since the last RIP Squad Diaries and for those of you who read these religiously, I sincerely apologize. Actually, I should make my professors apologize because it’s without a doubt their fault for assigning enough homework to make Albert Einstein lose his mind. A lot can happen in four weeks, and a lot HAS happened in the past 28 days. But when it comes to Purdue women’s basketball and what has happened over the last four weeks, I haven’t the faintest idea where to begin.
I could begin with KK Houser tearing her ACL in a loss against Michigan State. I could start by explaining how the team has come together to win six straight games. As a last resort, I could explain to you all how I became the first RIP Squad member to tear his ACL during practice. All three would, and have, grabbed your attention so I might as well attempt sum up the events that have taken place over the past month to the best of my abilities.
If you’re reading this there’s a very good chance you’ve already heard about KK’s injury and you probably wondered how the rest of the season was going to unfold. I don’t think anyone truly knew how KK’s absence would affect the outcome of the last six games of the season. Most teams who lose their leader scorer, assist leader, spark plug, and arguably most entertaining player decide to fold up the tents and head home. To be totally and completely cliché, Purdue is not one of those teams.
But let’s give some credit where it is most certainly due. Courtney Moses is shooting a near-unguardable percentage from three-point territory, April Wilson has stepped up and become an offensive threat, and Whitney Bays continues to do her thing, you know, that thing she does where she gets a double-double. Those three will get their names in the paper, but everyone else has contributed at a much higher level. Torrie Thornton and Camille Redmon have given quality minutes inside, and on the wing Hayden Hamby, Bridget Perry and Ashley Morrissette have all made the bench seem deeper. One of my favorite things about the six game winning streak is how well Dee Dee Williams has shot the ball from long distance. I’ll bet my entire (slowly dwindling) savings account that opponents’ scouting reports didn’t say to guard her out there. As far as they know, Dee Dee shoots the three about once every three moons.
Four of the six wins have come without much need for panic. Tickets to the other two should’ve come with heart defibrillators and asthma inhalers. While the visit to Michigan caused some worry, it was nothing quite what Iowa brought in the first half. The Hawkeyes opened up an 18-point lead and took a 16-point lead into halftime behind some video game-like shooting and turnovers by our Boilers. Halftime finally came to stop the bleeding and I remember thinking, ”well this should make practice fun for the next few days.”
I’m not exactly sure what Coach Versyp said in the locker room during halftime, and part of me doesn’t want to know. Whatever she said, though, lit a fire under them, and I mean that fire was white hot. They cut the lead to seven and finally took the lead with about two minutes left in the game. I usually sit by the band and enjoy the hecklers that surround me asking for a travel or foul literally every possession. I don’t get too excited that often, it’s just my nature. But this game was a different story. It was as intense of a women’s game I’ve been to in quite a while. Courtney knocked down two free throws to seal the deal. She’s got ice in her veins, people. She’s what Gus Johnson would call "COLD BLOODED"
Let’s fast forward to this past Thursday, a day that will live in infamy among RIP Squad players for years to come. Probably not, but it was a pretty terrible day for yours truly. We were all excited about the scrimmage against the ladies. One, because we never get to actually scrimmage them. And two, how many students get the opportunity to get up and down the floor in Mackey Arena? The coaches had brought in some referees to give the scrimmage a game-like feel and the scoreboard was being used as well. This is about as big as the stage gets for the RIP Squad. This was our Finals appearance. We went into the second 20-minute segment down two, although the homers were in full effect as a three we hit at the buzzer was taken off the board. People don’t realize how hard it is to play on the road until they actually do it. We were clearly playing 8 on 5 but we stayed together and battled it out through the second half.
I don’t remember exactly how much time was left in the last segment of the scrimmage, but what I do remember is taking the ball on a fast break, hopping around Hayden Hamby in the lane and going up for a layup. The only problem with this was my right knee decided it just wasn’t going to jump anymore. I had always imagined a torn ACL would feel like a grenade going off inside your knee. The reality is it feels like a rubber band snapping on the outside of your leg. Not one of those wimpy rubber bands, but one of those big ones you’d find at a flea market or something weird. For those of you questioning how tough I am, yes, I went down to the floor because a major ligament, you know, wasn’t there anymore. I didn’t cry, and the only thing I managed to complain about was that it hurt like H-E-double hockey sticks. I managed to get up and walk off under my own power. I obviously couldn’t show any tears around the ladies because that wouldn’t be manly at all. For a guy who is routinely mistaken for a 17 year old I need as much manliness as I can acquire.
The tests you see trainers doing on athletes’ knees do, in fact, determine whether a ligament is torn or not. As much as I didn’t want to believe it the thought of a tear sat in the back of my mind. I came to terms with it when trainer Jess Lipsett brought me back into the training room. Jess said I’m the first practice player to tear his ACL during her time here. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice (If you don’t recognize that Caddyshack reference, educate yourself).
But I’m doing well; I’m staying positive and getting around fine. It would be much better if 90% of the ground around campus weren’t covered in ice or snow. I’ve considered purchasing a Life Alert system, the famous “help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” device. The players, coaching staff, training staff, and everyone else involved have all been incredibly supportive. They’ve given me so much more than I could’ve asked for when I signed up for the RIP Squad, even before the injury. But this has put everything over the top and I can’t thank everyone enough.
With that said, the reason I write these articles is to bring more light to the team and not make it about myself. If you weren’t able to attend the Nebraska game you missed two things; an absolute drumming of Nebraska and quite an interesting senior night celebration. First was KK’s introduction, where she pulled the cover off the wrong jersey display. It was truly a great start and only fitting for this group of seniors.
Then there was Courtney’s State of the Union Address. I’ve attempted to find the records for longest senior night speeches of all time but it wouldn’t matter because Courtney topped them all. She thanked everyone, literally. Her neighbors, the janitors, her town, the concession stand workers (not really, but it wasn’t out of the question).
Dee Dee came last, about 3 eons after Courtney started. It was a really tough act to follow. Courtney went over her allotted time like Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY’s. Did I mention she talked for an extensive length of time? Dee Dee started off strong but began to tear up early on in her speech. If I had put money on which one would’ve teared up first (I wouldn’t bet because that’s illegal, thanks NCAA) I would’ve bet on Dee Dee.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend three seasons with Courtney, Dee Dee, and KK. I think they would all three back me up when I say we’ve developed good relationships with each other. Dee Dee would debate that statement depending on how good or bad I made her look on defense on a particular day. Courtney and I share a special bond because of our ridiculously awesome names, and I’ll miss KK coming up to me and saying she was fouled while missing (sometimes airballing) a completely wide open jumper during warm-ups. Let me tell you, this group is special in more ways than one.
Now it’s B1G Tournament time and you all know what that means for the RIP Squad? You guessed it, road trip! About five of us are planning on staying in Indianapolis and attending the games, however many there may be. The last two years haven’t disappointed with two tournament championships. Practice leading up to the tournament is always important. Most of the time it involves the players complaining about the new ball they have to use. Instead of using a Nike ball they use a Spalding ball for the tournament. It doesn’t appear to have affected Courtney’s shot; in fact she could play in hurricane-force winds and shoot well.
Friday’s game will feature a rematch of our Feb. 16 thriller against the Hawkeyes, and Lord knows that we’ll be in Indy Thursday night to prepare for the game. We’d like to stay as long as we cane, but who knows what a wild weekend down in the capitol city has in store?