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June 15, 2012Whitney Bays relates to Drey Mingo, Purdue's sixth-year senior who has heroically battled sickness and injury during her career.
Both are 6-foot-2 forwards who started their careers at Maryland and have suffered serious knee injuries. And both will likely end their college careers at Purdue, following Bays' decision Thursday night to transfer to West Lafayette.
Mingo played a role.
"She was so nice and we could talk for days about our experiences," said Bays, who will have two years of eligibility as a Boilermaker after sitting out next season. "She's definitely an inspiration to me and everyone at Purdue. She's a great person to be around and I can't wait to be part of the team and watch her play."
Bays, a Huntington, W.Va., native who averaged 2.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 10 minutes per game last season for Maryland, chose the Boilermakers over hometown Marshall, Xavier and Penn State. A former top-15 prospect, she officially visited only West Lafayette (although her family's house is adjacent to the campus of Marshall) on June 7, with the trip sealing her thoughts on the Boilers.
"I really wanted to go to Purdue," said Bays, who was ranked No. 13 in the 2010 class by ESPN.com and was recruited by Purdue out of high school. "I just had to take the visit, get on campus, meet the team and everything else that comes with that. Once I did that, and saw everything I need to see, it was a really easy decision for me.
"I think it will be a great experience. I can't wait. I know Purdue is a great academic school and the women's team gets a lot of respect and Coach (Sharon Versyp) is a great coach, so I felt like it was a perfect fit for me."
Bays expects to report to Purdue by July 9. Due to NCAA transfer rules, she will be forced to sit the 2012-13 season. But she likely would have been sidelined anyway due to a bulky knee that she hopes is finally on the way to permanent recovery.
Nine weeks ago, Bays underwent revision ACL surgery after her ligament had failed following replacement surgery in 2009. The second, more intrusive surgery, occurs when the ligament - in this case, formerly Bays' hamstring - becomes stretched and worn down, but not re-torn.
"My situation is really weird, it happens to about 1 percent of people (with knee injuries)," she said. "I had ACL failure, so I was basically playing last season without an ACL."
The injuries cost Bays her senior year at Huntington High School - she had averaged 24.4 points and 11.1 rebounds the year before, in becoming West Virginia's player-of-the-year - and her freshman year at Maryland.
But she says the knee is feeling better now.
"I have no doubt in my mind that I can recover fully from this injury," said Bays, a combo forward who can play the 3 or 4. "I keep telling everybody that it couldn't be worse than what I was already playing on. So the fear isn't really there.
"And one of the reasons I came to Purdue is I definitely have a great support staff. I'll really get pushed and can be really successful there. That was a main thing for me, support, and I feel like I have that at Purdue."
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