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'Power of family'

Prayer sessions that lasted hours.

Leaning on each other for support.

Staying vigil at a hospital, not knowing whether a teammate would live.

Many athletic teams boast about being a "family."

But when members of Purdue's women's basketball team say it, it's not a cliché. Few teams experience what the Boilermakers did this season, watching teammate Drey Mingo battle life-threatening bacterial meningitis in November.

While Mingo was in the hospital, players had sleepless nights. They cried together. They prayed together. They pleaded for a miracle together.

"It was very empowering. It was very heartfelt," coach Sharon Versyp said. "You're just looking around and the power of family – you can't describe it.

"We got to know each other in a different way we wouldn't normally have. The closeness and the unconditional love is to another level. You never forget. We're happy she's healthy, everything is moving on. You never forget the lessons that are learned, but you forge forward and you know that some great things are in place."

Drey Mingo agreed with her coach, saying the team "learned a lot more about each other than I think we would have if we hadn't gone through this situation."

But it wasn't only members of the team who felt that connection.

When Mingo's mother, Jennifer, arrived in Lafayette early in the morning after Drey was hospitalized, she was immediately struck by the support system.

"As the mother to be there and see the worry and just how they bonded together, to make eye contact, and see and feel that, it's the real thing," Jennifer Mingo said. "Coach Versyp, I tried to dismiss her when I first got there. 'You can go home now.' She looked at me like I had horns on my head. 'I'm not going anywhere.'

"I realized, 'Wow. They're not leaving us.' "

Versyp said Jennifer Mingo got to the hospital about 2 a.m. and they spoke for five hours. Versyp said she didn't sleep for probably about a 48-hour span after Mingo was admitted.

Jennifer Mingo wasn't surprised by Versyp's reaction to the situation. She already knew what she was getting with coach well before Mingo arrived on Purdue's campus two years ago.

When Versyp was coach at Indiana, she recruited Drey Mingo.

"I liked her then," Jennifer Mingo said. "She looked in my eye. I just knew she was a good human being. I told Drey from that visit, 'I really would like you to play for her.' But she wasn't really interested in Indiana. But I always, always – in my heart of hearts – right from the very beginning, if I could have sent her to somebody, it would have been (Versyp)."