There's a lot to be excited about if you're a Purdue basketball fan right now. Can't say the same for football, but I still think Coach Hazell will turn the program around. It will take some time, though. It was certainly a disappointing season for the basketball team last season, which culminated in a loss to Santa Clara in the CBI -- I think we paid like 50K to play in the tourney -- and a 16-18 overall record.
Gone: D.J. Byrd, Dru Anthrop, Jacob Lawson, Anthony Johnson, Sandi Marcius.
Enter: Errick Peck, Sterling Carter, Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott, Basil Smotherman.
Not very much is being made of the roster turnover. It is interesting. Many believe the players who are coming in far outweigh, in skill and potential production, the players that graduated or transferred.
I would agree. It's still interesting to think about: how different this team is going to look. That's five new players that seem to be headed for playing time this season. Some more than others, but I think the consensus is all will play. How much? Who knows. What I do know is that the players above all bring different things to the table, something that can only help a team that struggled with depth a season ago.
I'm more interested in the returnees, however. Will Hammons realize his potential to be one of the best centers to ever come through Purdue? Last season he showed flashes, but he needs to show
consistency this season. He needs to become more mature on and off the court and it looks like he has made strides.
He can't put himself ahead of the team and show up late to the team bus, sit on the bench to begin the game, and watch his team give up the game's first 12 points at Northwestern. That stuff just can't happen. Not at Purdue. It's probably not his personality, but I'd like to see him take over more games this year, although he probably won't be asked -- or needed -- to do so. I expect a pretty balanced scoring attack this season.
I think the only emotion I saw from the 7-footer last season was during the IU game in Mackey. After a dunk to start the second half, down 15 or something, he showed emotion and fire. That's what this team needs. Not everybody needs to do it, and it probably won't start with Hammons, and that's OK. Players like Bryson Scott will help with this.
Ronnie Johnson's development in his second year will be another interesting element of this team. Like Hammons, fans are expecting Ronnie to take that next step. How big that next step will be nobody knows. I think for how fast Ronnie plays, coupled with being a freshman in the Big Ten, the ultra-quick point guard performed quite admirably last season. Most expected his shot to be better, but it will improve this season -- it has to. The arrival of Bryson Scott is big here. Scott will be pushing Ronnie all year for the starting point guard spot. He probably won't ever get it, but that doesn't really matter. Last season, Painter talked about wanting to sit the younger players sometimes after mistakes, but he didn't have the personnel to do so. This season it looks like he does. That will surely bring up the competitiveness of the team.
I am pretty excited about a player who goes unnoticed a lot of the time when it comes to Purdue basketball: Rapheal Davis. Part of the reason for the excitement: work ethic. Davis has the maturity and work ethic that you wish all Purdue players have or would grow into. I'm confident that Davis worked on his game over the summer and will be a much improved player. He's 6-5 and already physical enough to play big minutes in the Big Ten. I think he will be an improved shooter this season as well. I always think about that Notre Dame game last season when I think of Davis and what he could become. I think he takes that next step this season.
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