The Boilermakers open the season Sunday against North Alabama at Mackey Arena

Lafayette Journal & Courier

WEST LAFAYETTE – Five days after it was originally scheduled to open the 2020-21 season, the Purdue women’s basketball team will play Game 1 on Sunday.

The Boilermakers are set to host North Alabama at Mackey Arena. The season opener against Bowling Green was scheduled for Nov. 25 but was pushed back to Dec. 13 due to COVID-19 concerns around the Falcons’ program.

What to know about coach Sharon Versyp’s team heading into its first of five non-conference games:

Purdue begins the season without a full roster. At least four players aren’t expected to play in the opener – senior Karissa McLaughlin, sophomores Bria Harmon and Roxane Makolo and junior Cassidy Hardin.

McLaughlin underwent reconstructive ankle surgery last spring and could return to the lineup at some point. Makolo suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice and Hardin is working her way back after surgery.

With injuries, COVID-19 and contact tracing, the preseason practices have been a “juggling act,” Versyp said.

“It’s always fluid,” she said.

The Boilermakers have four newcomers – two transfers (Brooke Moore, Rokia Doumbia) and two freshmen (Madison Layden, Ra Shaya Kyle). Moore was granted immediate eligibility and will play point guard and shooting guard. She averaged 8.6 points last season at Auburn. Doumbia transferred from Arkansas. 

“She’s just a scorer and she has the competitive drive that we need,” junior Kayana Traylor said. “She makes us better all the way around.”

With McLaughlin sidelined, Purdue needs to find its offense from a variety of players.  

“Fire, energy, scoring,” Versyp said of what she expects from Moore. “She’s got a nice confidence and swag about her. She’s a great one-on-one player. The speed and basketball IQ and understanding of the game, she can flat out score the ball. She has a lot of confidence about her and that’s contagious.”

Once Moore learned she would be allowed to play this season, the 5-foot-7 guard changed her mindset.

“I was trying to help prepare the team,” said Moore, who is from Atlanta. “I still worked on my game, but I also was more passive, and I was taking my time and going to every practice trying to learn as much as I can. After that, I had to watch more film every day and get shots up.”

The idea McLaughlin will likely play this season should provide a spark. The senior still has work to do but it’s a promising sign.

“The biggest thing now is just getting the ankle moving again,” Versyp said. “She’s starting to run, she’s starting to do a couple of defensive drills, starting to shoot and jump. Just getting back in the shape, that’s going to be the big key.”

When it was announced the Homestead graduate was undergoing surgery, McLaughlin was expected to sit out the season to recover.