Corissa Yasen Found Dead
Corissa Yasen, perhaps Purdue's greatest female athlete of all time, is dead at the age of just 27.
Yasen's body was found during the weekend in her Couer D'Alene, Id., home by her father, Don. Cause of death remains unknown with autopsy results pending.
Yasen had been working as a pharmacist in her hometown after a stellar track and field career at Purdue and a brief stint in the WNBA.
"This is just devastating," Purdue women's track and field coach Ben Paolillo said. "It just leaves you speechless."
In track and field, Yasen won seven Big Ten Championships and earned All-America honors nine times. In 1996, she was the National Champion in the heptathlon.
"She was a great kid," Paolillo said. "She'd challenge you a little bit, but he always listened, she was very coachable and a great team player. She was obviously very talented, but she always pushed herself."
Following her track and field career, Yasen walked on to the women's basketball team for one season, at a time when Purdue was in dire need of warm bodies following the departure of Coach Lin Dunn and several players. Yasen started every game as Purdue's small forward under Coach Nell Fortner, and was a critical contributor to Purdue's improbable Big Ten Championship season in 1996-97.
"I remember she came to me and said, 'I used to be pretty good at this. I wouldn't mind seeing if I could them out,'" Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said Sunday. "I'll never forget that."
In her one season of college basketball, Yasen averaged 11.4 points and 6.2 rebounds while leading the team in blocked shots and steals. Her performance that year was good enough to earn her honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and a chance to play professionally.
Yasen put her promising track and field career on hold indefinitely to play pro basketball. Her career with the Sacramento Monarchs spanned two seasons, but she saw action in just 19 games.
"It was a really difficult decision to pursue basketball," Yasen told Gold & Black Illustrated in August. "Obviously, basketball was still new to me, and it was a little more exciting (than track). I'd been doing track since high school and I guess I got a little burned out."
While she played in the WNBA during the summer, Yasen would return to West Lafayette during the school year to complete her degree in pharmacy, a six-year curriculum and one of Purdue's most grueling academic programs.
"She was a great student and a great athlete and maybe the most competitive person I've ever seen in any of our sports, bar-none," Burke said.
"This is a reminder to all of us that you better take each day and enjoy it because you never know when it will be your last."