Purdue Coach Sharon Versyp doesn't want the focus on her after being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer as the ninth-seeded Boilermakers prepare to face eighth-seeded Green Bay in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday.
"It's not about me. It's about family. It's about a team," Versyp said Thursday. "It's all about them right now."
Purdue (22-12) won seven in a row before losing to Maryland, 74-64, in the Big Ten Conference tournament championship game, a winning streak the Boilermakers needed to earn an NCAA berth. Versyp, who was diagnosed in February, waited until after the Boilermakers were finished with the Big Ten tourney this month to tell her players.
"I didn't want them worrying or having any other mission than what they deserved," she said. "When you hear the word cancer, it's shocking and everyone gets a little off kilter."
But she said with a nearly two-week wait for the NCAA tournament, with the Boilermakers not even sure they would be in, it was time to let the players know. She said even though she told her players her prognosis was good, they still were emotional when they were told and several players were distraught.
"We were all just so emotional and so sad," junior guard Andreona Keys said. "We said: `We have your back. We're going to be here for you 100 percent."
Versyp said she's also grateful for all the support she's received from other coaches and others in the college basketball.
"It's sad to say, but you find out how many people really care about you when you go through a tough situation," she said.
Versyp, who underwent surgery two days before the Big Ten Tournament began, said she never considered not coaching during the NCAA Tournament.
"I'm still doing research on what I need to do with doctors," Versyp said.
Versyp, who grew up in Mishawaka, just east of South Bend, said she's pleased to be playing at Notre Dame. Whenever she returns to the South Bend area she thinks about her parents, who died before she became head coach at Purdue in 2006.
"I just wish my mom and dad, I know they're looking down, I wish they could have just seen what their daughter has enjoyed," she said. "I feel my mom and dad are with me. That's all that matters right now in my time of crisis."
NCAA women's tournament
At College Park, Md.
Maryland (30-2) vs. Bucknell (27-5), 9 a.m.
West Virginia (23-10) vs. Elon (27-6), 11:30 a.m.
OKLAHOMA CITY REGIONAL
At Starkville, Miss.
DePaul (26-7) vs. Northern Iowa (24-8), 9 a.m.
Mississippi State (29-4) vs. Troy (22-10), 11:30 a.m.
At South Bend, Ind.
Green Bay (27-5) vs. Purdue (22-12), 2 p.m.
Notre Dame (30-3) vs. Robert Morris (22-10), 4:30 p.m.
At Lexington, Ky.
Kentucky (21-10) vs. Belmont (27-5), 9 a.m.
Ohio State (26-6) vs. Western Kentucky (27-6), 11:30 a.m.
At Austin, Texas
NC State (22-8) vs. Auburn (17-14), 9 a.m.
Texas (23-8) vs. Central Arkansas (26-4), 11:30 a.m.
At Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina (27-4) vs. UNC-Asheville (19-14), 2 p.m.
Arizona State (19-12) vs. Michigan State (21-11), 4:30 p.m.
At Tallahassee, Fla.
Missouri (21-10) vs. South Florida (24-8), 2 p.m.
Florida State (25-6) vs. Western Illinois (26-6), 4:30 p.m.
Oregon State (29-4) vs. Long Beach State (23-10), 2 p.m.