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The Journal Gazette

Monday, October 02, 2017 1:00 am

McLaughlin fits in at Purdue

Homestead grad led Spartans to state title in '17

JEFF WASHBURN | For The Journal Gazette

WEST LAFAYETTE – Homestead graduate and 2017 Miss Basketball Karissa McLaughlin has done her Purdue homework.

The ninth Indiana Miss Basketball to play for Purdue was asked after Sunday's first practice as a Boilermaker if she knew who was Purdue's first.

“Coach (Sharon) Versyp,” said McLaughlin, who led the Spartans to the 2017 Class 4A state championship, capping a four-year varsity career in which Homestead was 103-10.

She scored 2,586 career points, including a single-season record 778 points and a single-game school record 40 points and a single-game 3-pointers record with 12.

“She hasn't written her legacy yet, but she is just beginning and those things she has coming in – the character, the academics, great citizen, great ball player – those are the kind of student athletes we want here,” Versyp said. “She has shined, and we want her to continue to grow and shine the next four years.

But Purdue's gain is Florida's loss after McLaughlin had second thoughts about her original commitment to Florida when coach Amanda Butler was fired. McLaughlin quickly changed to the Boilermakers.

“At first what happened (at Florida) was really hard because I had everything planned out,” McLaughlin said Sunday afternoon. “I was ready to move on to that next chapter, and then life threw me a curveball.”

McLaughlin has the potential to play extended minutes or be a starter this season, but that is not her priority.

“I just hope to bring a lot of energy,” McLaughlin said. “I want to be a great teammate, on and off the court, which is something coach emphasizes. I want to do my part to help this team be great.”

McLaughlin knows she must improve her defense but loves Purdue's identity and rich history. So far, the business management and marketing major said her Purdue experience has been everything she imagined and more. She hopes to play in the WNBA, then would like to transition into sports promotion or coaching.

As a former fellow Miss Basketball, Versyp likes the fact McLaughlin has not put added pressure on herself to excel.

“I didn't put more pressure on myself, and we try to do that with any player that comes in, because in college, everybody is great,” Versyp said. “There are Miss Basketballs in other states and All-Americans.

“She is big picture, probably one of the most mature freshmen I have coached in 20-some years. It is her mindset of seeing the big picture. The mentality is there. If she is doing the right things, it is about me telling players, 'Force me not to take you off the court.' It is in their hands, not mine.”

McLaughlin is a good friend of former Homestead Mr. Basketball and Purdue All-American Caleb Swanigan, who promised her Purdue would be the right place for her.

“He wanted what was best for me, and when I did commit to Purdue ... he said 'Boiler Up,' and told me I would be happy here,” McLaughlin said. “I am so happy for him. He deserves everything he has gotten and more. He is a go-getter. It is a great guy that this is happening for.”