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Monday, April 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Boilermakers look for repeat

Women's basketball team eyes 2nd championship

Two years ago, Purdue cut down the nets as the nation\'s top team. It's easy to forget that -- in part, because of all of the changes in West Lafayette.\n1999 Coach of the Year Carolyn Peck is gone, running the WNBA's Orlando Miracle. Ukari Figgs and Stephanie McCarty, the Boilers scoring punch in their championship run, have moved with Peck to the pros.\nBut for all the changes from that 34-1 team, the starting center and shooting forward have not left the black and gold of Mackey Arena. \nAnd neither has the goal.\nStellar seniors Camille Cooper and Katie Douglas have their eyes set on St. Louis and a second national championship, as Purdue returns four starters and adds arguably the nation's top recruiting class.\n"We've been to the top and we know what it's like," Cooper said. "We want to go back.\n"(Katie and I) have a sense of urgency that we need to communicate to the freshmen because this is our last go-around, our last chance to have that experience again."\nCoach Kristy Curry, who replaced Peck after the 1999 season and is in her second season, inherited two of the nation\'s top players. Douglas and Cooper. Douglas, who is a Naismith Preseason Player of the Year finalist and an All-American, led the team in scoring last year with just more than 20 points per game.\nDouglas was the Big Ten preseason player of the year as selected by both the media and the Big Ten coaches. She's a known threat that has the attention of all the Big Ten coaches.\n"I call her 'The Assassin,'" Minnesota coach Cheryl Littlejohn said. "She gets it done on both ends of the court. She can score. She can rebound. She can defend. She can pass. She has a complete game.\n"You don't stop Katie Douglas, you try to contain her," she said. "You can't let her create for other people. If she's going to beat you, she'll have to beat you by herself, but she can\'t have everybody else getting involved."\nWith the bull's-eye set squarely between the three and the two on her jersey, Douglas knows that every game will be physically demanding on the 6-1 Perry Meridian product.\nBut Douglas said she doesn\'t see the opponents' focus as a hurdle, but rather a reason to improve her game.\n"It does put a little bit of pressure on myself, but I need to use it as motivation," Douglas said. "I know that every night, the other team is going to be working really hard to stop me. So I need to work that much harder to keep helping this team."\nCooper, a 6-4 center, averaged 15 points and nearly eight rebounds a game last year on a team that lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 76-74 to Oklahoma.\nNot only does Purdue return its one-two punch, but also five of its top six scorers from last year\'s team. Add to that the nation's No. 1 recruiting class ranked by All-Star Girls Report and the bar is set high for Curry's team.\n"We always have high expectations at Purdue," Curry said. "We expect to be the best. We are very young, but yet we have a great blend of the old. The job is going to be how well we mesh together and how quickly the freshmen can come along.\n"I have a new baby at home and I have six babies at work," said Curry jokingly about her two-month old daughter and her recruiting class.\nHow quickly those six freshmen come along will weigh heavily on the shoulders of Cooper and Douglas.\nThe five seniors who hope to end their careers with a national championship will have a big part in maturing the freshmen, who are getting their first exposure to Division I basketball.\nThe top freshman for the Boilers is USA Today High School Player of the Year Shereka Wright, who will understudy this season at the three-spot behind Douglas. Wright will see significant playing time during the season along with the other freshmen, Curry said.\n"Anytime a freshman steps into a college game it\'s a huge adjustment playing-wise," Douglas said. "Myself, Camille and the three other seniors need to teach, instruct and show them the ropes a bit.\n"Our goal is to win the Big Ten title, the Big Ten tournament and go to the Final Four. They're big goals, I know, but we won't be satisfied with anything less"

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