12/4/19 Virginia, Aaron Wheeler, Isaiah Thompson, Matt Haarms

Junior center Matt Haarms and freshman guard Isaiah Thompson help up sophomore forward Aaron Wheeler in the first half.

When the last day of finals week rolls around, most Purdue students can forget about their responsibilities and enjoy a month at home with family and friends.

But Purdue basketball players stay long after everyone else in the college-turned-ghost town.

“Every sport has huge sacrifices,” women’s basketball head coach Sharon Versyp said. “Our kids don’t get any breaks. They only get a couple days for fall break. They don’t get Christmas break. They don’t get spring break.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams played eight games over winter break, with practice almost every other day. The only time off players had was the couple of days after their Dec. 21 games. Each player responded to the situation differently.

“It’s tough of course to be away from family,” junior center Matt Haarms said. “I was lucky. My family was able to come stay in West Lafayette for a while.”

Senior guard Dominique Oden shared that sentiment.

“It’s exciting,” Oden said about continuing to play the sport she loves, “but it’s also kinda sad. I have four siblings so they’re all home, and it’s just kinda sad to miss out on those weeks.”

But most players agree that playing during a break from school has its benefits.

“It’s just kinda awesome because this is what you ultimately want to do,” junior guard Karissa McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said that with no classes, practice over break is more focused and efficient. A lack of responsibilities like studying for class gives her and her teammates more time to focus on their game.

Freshman guard Isaiah Thompson took advantage of his time off class to hit the gym as often as possible.

“You really get a chance to just work on your own, kinda get away from all the social aspects of being on break,” he said. “I get a lot more time just to be in the gym.”

Haarms, while not happy with the limited time off, made the most of his time on campus.

“There’s no one at the restaurants downtown,” he said. “There’s no lines, which is great. Normally there’s like a 20-minute wait at whatever place I go to, and now I just walk right in and order.”

The players were also able to devote time to friends and family during their off days.

“We practiced on Christmas, so we had (three days) off,” Haarms said. “That time was just spent with family: my mom and dad, my girlfriend and her family. We had a really good time opening presents and that kind of stuff.”

Thompson, while he enjoyed his time at Purdue, was happy to go home as well.

“I got to spend time with family for a couple days,” he said. “I know we don’t get a lot of time, so I was trying to spend as much as I could.”

Oden was able to spend time with all four of her siblings, along with the rest of her family.

“The first couple of days, I kinda just relaxed with all my family, watched Netflix and played games. My younger sister also plays basketball, so she was coming home from playing (as well).”

Even Versyp spent time away from the court.

“I spent time with family up north,” Versyp said. “We had a dead period for recruiting too, so you can’t make any phone calls; (you) kinda disconnect from the world and just appreciate what you have and be around family and friends.

“Then we come back the day after Christmas and start the Big Ten, so there’s no rest for the weary.”

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