Host Tim Newton began the program by reminding the audience that the Boilers’ next two games will be on TV. Tonight’s (Feb. 13) visit to Penn State will be broadcast by Fox Sports Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. EST, while Sunday’s tilt with visiting Illinois tips off at 2 p.m. and will be one of ESPN2’s experimental regional broadcasts as “The Deuce” and its parent network rehearse for their comprehensive coverage of this season’s NCAA Tournament.
Curry said that the Boilers had scrimmaged well Sunday, and that the team had also had a good practice a few hours before Tuesday’s show aired. Since the Penn State game will determine whether Purdue “moves into the front seat” on the highway to the Big Ten regular-season crown or slips back into the trailer being towed by the metaphorical vehicle currently driven by Lady Lion mentor Rene Portland, there is a very real possibility that the Fighting Illini will be facing an emotionally exhausted host club Sunday at Mackey regardless of which squad wins the February 13 showdown in the shadow of Mount Nittany.
In responding to a question about recruiting, Kristy said that September 9-29 looms as an important stretch. During that three-week “window”, she and her assistants will be able to visit the homes of those prospects set to graduate from high school in 2004. A prep player’s on-court performance can only be evaluated five times by any one Division I school’s staff, and the observation period runs from early October to February. Curry and her assistants are allotted a total of 40 days on the recruiting trail, with (for example) Nov. 12 counting as two days if Kristy and husband Kelly are both scouting potential future Boilers, three days if Pam Stackhouse or Kerry Cremeans is also taking in a game or ten. An example of the potential for frustration was given. One member of the Boiler brain trust flew to New Jersey to check out a star player, only to learn upon arrival in Newark that the phenom’s game had been cancelled.
Another dilemma is rearing its head now that high school sectional play has commenced. If Kerry’s plans to attend a prospect’s Friday game are dashed as the coveted player’s team is upset in Tuesday’s opening-round action, an opportunity for evaluation is lost. Nevertheless, Cremeans is slated to be at a gym “somewhere in Ohio” this coming weekend.
Any athletes the Boilers land will eventually be involved in such team-building exercises as sessions with the program’s sports psychologist. The players are occasionally given such tokens as “Believe to Achieve” bracelets and “Big Fun” T-shirts. As far as day-to-day interaction goes, “it’s not so much what you say to each other, but how you say it.” The best rule of thumb is to focus on team, as opposed to individual, needs and goals. Nevertheless, the “young kids” still have to be pulled aside once in a while and told to “focus”. The team’s traveling party was to eat at an MCL Cafeteria before boarding a charter flight to Happy Valley. Hey, Kristy, I deliberately withheld this info until today in order to prevent y’all from being mobbed by your adoring public as you attempted to eat in peace… :+)
Curry, a former assistant to Leon Barmore at Louisiana Tech, said Barmore had taught her to “take what you like” of his coaching philosophy and tactics, “but also be yourself”. As an example of the latter, Kristy is less inclined than was her mentor to use fear as a motivational tool. Although many fans (this writer included) figured Curry was chewing out her charges after last Thursday’s lackluster first-half performance against Northwestern, Kristy claimed she merely wrote a few words on the locker room chalkboard and walked away. Rather than make heated comments she’d later regret, she figured “the less said, the better”. Curry insisted that she was taken aback by the team’s flat performance that night, as the players had seemed emotionally ready during that day’s shoot-around activity. The Wildcats’ ability to stay in that contest, coupled with Northwestern’s convincing triumph Sunday over Michigan, reinforced the truth of the cliché that declares “anybody can beat anybody in this league”.
One of the women instrumental to the Boilers’ on-court success has been Emily Heikes, who appeared as a guest on Tuesday’s program. A fan who has noticed that Emily and Beth Jones are generally the last Boilers to leave the court during pre-game warm-ups asked Heikes to explain the origin of the custom. Emily replied that the tradition had been established last season. As the only true freshman on the club, Heikes was charged with rebounding when one of her teammates wanted to get in one or two last shots. Since Jones likes to be the last one left on the court and to keep firing until she makes one final three-pointer, Emily was charged with hitting the boards and snaring Beth’s misses. None of the freshmen who made their Boiler debuts last fall has supplanted Heikes in this regard.
In response to a question about how she felt when she broke her nose against Pacific, Emily said she had never fractured any bones before, so she didn’t know how it felt to do so. She wasn’t really scared until she saw blood oozing from her face. Wanting to see the extent of the damage, Heikes asked then-sidelined teammate Hannah Anderson to “get me a mirror”. For some reason, Hannah heard the plea as a request to “get me a beer”. After that moment of hilarity had passed, Heikes changed into Anderson’s jersey, which “was really tight”.
As you may recall, Emily was subsequently fitted for a mask, which she wore for the next three weeks. Although the device was protective, it was also cumbersome. During the Vanderbilt game, Emily was sweating so much that her perspiration “slopped up” the mask and impaired her vision. Frustrated, she threw off the mask. Her mother, who was listening, was not happy that Emily was apparently determined to ignore medical advice. Although Mom’s concerns were presumably assuaged when Heikes re-donned the facial ornament, Heikes never worried about re-injuring her nose. Rather, she “just went back and played (her) game”. Once she was given official clearance to do so, Emily discarded the mask for good.
Heikes answered a query about coaching advice by saying that Kelly Curry “tells me to relax and not rush my shot (as I) work on my inside game”, while “Stack (Pam Stackhouse) tells me I have to muscle it up.” Emily, whose “spice Rack” nickname is “Hazelnut”, decided that the best thing about being a Boiler is the family atmosphere provided by the players and staff. Rather than risk her coach’s wrath, Emily didn’t directly say what she liked least about Purdue’s academics or basketball program. Instead, she diplomatically asserted that she dislikes the Lafayette area’s recent phenomenon of snowless cold weather, as “you can’t go sledding or anything” even though it’s freezing outside.
Since one of her uncles met his future wife when he was a member of the football Boilers, Purdue was always “in the picture” as Emily mulled her college choice. Eventually, the uncle contacted the basketball staff on Emily’s behalf. Now that she’s a full-fledged member of the squad, Heikes demonstrates her “rah-rah” spirit in huddles by bumping her teammates in attempts to “get them going”. So far, she hasn’t been deterred by protests that she’s too big to be “getting physical” in such a manner. Although she’s a tough customer on the court, Emily doesn’t respond well to being yelled at, and was thus grateful Curry didn’t tear into the team at the half of the Northwestern game in Mackey. Heikes insisted that she doesn’t care whether she starts or not, as long as she gets to “bang with the big people”. When she’s on the bench, she watches Lindsey Hicks and Mary Jo Noon in order to “get an idea of what I can do better than they’re doing it”.
Also appearing on the program was Ed Howat, Purdue’s assistant athletics director in charge of compliance. Howat explained that the rule that enjoins coaches from speaking about potential recruits is designed to prevent anyone from gaining an unfair advantage by constantly “talking up” a player. Anyone who holds season tickets or belongs to the John Purdue Club or BOILERmaker NETwork is, by definition, a booster. Thus, most of those fans who were at Chumley’s for the broadcast are covered under the rules that forbid boosters from giving Purdue athletes such benefits as merchandise discounts that are not available to the general public. Buying a meal for a player in order to celebrate her recent game-winning shot is likewise prohibited.
Howat explained that he sees himself “as an educator, not a policeman.” His job is to let coaches know about the rules, then trust that the coaches will report any violations they learn of. In answer to a fan’s question about the “no sign rule” enforced at Illinois, Howat said that the regulation is not an NCAA one, but may be a reflection of Big Ten policy. He went on to state that enforcement of such matters is up to game management staff, a group in which he does not claim membership.
(Sternvogel note: If you want to know why the Assembly Hall staff in Urbana-Champaign appears more draconian than the Mackey Arena ushers, here are the exact wordings from the backs of two ticket stubs in my possession.
Purdue stub: “Large signs, flags, or banners are not permitted. Items that reflect good sportsmanship, that can be held by one individual and do not block the view of other ticket patrons may be permitted.”
Illinois ticket: “No alcoholic beverages, bottles, cans, containers, cameras, radios, noisemakers, or signs are allowed.”)
Since the NCAA manual that covers Division I is “a couple of inches thick”, it’s obvious that nobody is expected to memorize the book from cover to cover. However, the volume is always available for consultation, as is the NCAA web site’s database of bylaw interpretations. Regardless of how diligent a staff is in following the guidelines even as the coaches attempt to “tweak” the rules to best advantage, violations will inevitably occur. Self-reporting is thus expected – “If you’re not claiming any violations at all, it sets up a red flag.” Purdue averages “about 13 or 14 self-reports a year.” It’s one thing to accidentally keep the players in the gym for an hour more than is allowed in a given week, and to note this oversight in a “mea culpa” addressed to NCAA headquarters. When no procedures for monitoring practice are in place, however, a school may be guilty of the dreaded “lack of institutional control”.
In her closing comments, Kristy Curry confirmed the suspicions of all listeners by declaring that the game at Penn State will require “an A-plus effort”. Whether the Boilers win or lose at the Bryce Jordan Center, they will have to quickly turn their attention to Illinois, as Theresa Grentz’s current senior class has never beaten Purdue. In response to a final question, the head coach said that each of her assistants is responsible for keeping track of certain Boilers’ fouls and minutes of on-court action. Kelly Curry is responsible for post players; Pam Stackhouse, point guards; Kerry Cremeans, wings. Kristy concluded by issuing her now-customary challenge to “grab somebody” as you head to Mackey Sunday. Since there will be a High School Team Day promotion in effect, a crowd of 10,000 is the coach’s expectation.