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Purdue University

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Liza Clemons is one of eight returning players for Purdue.

City native set to play bigger role for Boilers

– All Liza Clemons could do was watch.

Sidelined by a shoulder injury, Clemons couldn’t participate in offseason workouts.

“It was very frustrating because I see everybody trying to get into court shape,” Clemons said last month at Purdue’s media day. “We’re doing morning workouts, and I can’t work out because I can’t move my arm.”

Clemons, a sophomore forward who played at Elmhurst and Snider, is back and ready to help the Boilermakers.

“Shoulder surgery is not fun,” Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. “The hardest thing with shoulder surgery is you can’t really exercise. I think injuries teach a lot to each person. It taught her she had to rely on people.

“It teaches about your core. She’s a mentally tough kid, especially on the basketball court.”

Clemons played in 20 games as a freshman and averaged 5.3 minutes per game. She averaged 1.2 points and 0.7 rebounds but became more of a factor for the Boilermakers down the stretch.

She played six minutes in the Big Ten tournament championship game victory against Nebraska. She made a basket, grabbed one rebound and had three blocks. The 6-foot-2 Clemons scored a season-high six points against South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“When people look at a scouting report they’ll say, ‘Who is that kid?’ I don’t think they’ll remember how many important minutes she played at the end of the year for us last year,” Versyp said. “She came in and did some great things for us to go as far as we did in the tournament. With her, she can shoot the 15-foot shot, she finishes exceptionally well down low.”

Clemons finished with 10 blocks.

“People look at her frame and probably don’t think she can post up strong. … She’s really good with her body posting up and being able to pin and fundamentally understanding the game,” Versyp said. “She’s a great offensive and defensive rebounder and gets her hands on the ball all the time.

“She brings a whole collective element we all like and is fundamentally sound.”

Clemons played through the pain toward the end of the season.

“No matter how many minutes you get on the court, try to be productive,” Clemons said. “Whether it’s a rebound, a steal, a score. Just try to help your team out any way you can.”

“I feel like I could and will try to just be there when my teammates need me to be there, make plays that they need me to make, pick them up when they need pick up,” Clemons said.

“Just be an all-around team player.”

lpope@jg.net

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