Friday, October 25, 2013

The Freshmen


Keep things in perspective. Everything's relative. These are some of the sayings that I murmur to my friends every now and then when talking about Purdue athletics.

You have to. Otherwise you and your friends would go crazy. Purdue University is not Kentucky. Get that out of your minds and we have a prayer to get through this together. Some may say they love Purdue for what it is and never want to be like Kentucky, where it is common practice to bring in a four- to five-man class each year, loaded with five star talent, and watch the previous year's freshmen bolt for the draft, year after year, as expectations continue to rise and rise. But they win a lot. They're preseason No. 1 in the country this season after not even making the final rankings a year ago and getting knocked out in the first round of the NIT. All this with, and we can all agree and it doesn't matter what these coaches say, putting academics on the back burner. Some, on the other hand, would like to see Purdue do some things that Kentucky does -- lower its academic standards for athletes, toe the line in recruiting, etc. -- so that the basketball program sees more success. Who knows if these things would actually make a difference.

Nonetheless, Purdue is not Kentucky. So when you think of freshmen success, don't think of the Wildcats and then form your opinion on Purdue's freshmen. Fans probably don't explicitly compare the two programs' players, but they probably do it subconsciously. It's not the norm. Don't compare them to Kansas' freshmen, either.

This year's freshmen are not going to average 16-18 points like the Wildcats' Andrew Harrison or Andrew Wiggins.

They simply don't have to, for one. And they aren't in the same echelon as those two players. Not many are, and we haven't yet seen either play in college.

My point in all of this: Purdue's freshman are going to produce this year and help the Boilermakers win games this season, but they aren't going to be averaging a bunch of points, throwing down NBA-type dunks, or forgoing their final three years of eligibility to enter the draft.

Ehh...Smotherman might have a few NBA-type dunks. We'll see.

Smotherman, Scott and Stephens are going to come in and work hard and do what Matt Painter asks of them. Or at least that's what fans hope happens. Matt does too. That's all you can ask. These freshman seem to have that maturity and work ethic that the Baby Boilers brought to Mackey Arena back in 2007 -- both characteristics that left the program for a few years. 

That's one of the main reasons for excitement: To not only see this team as it opens its season officially in just a few weeks, but see them when they enter March. There is a lot potential with this team. Potential to be one of those "scary" teams in March Madness that enter the tournament on a high and have the ability to beat anyone and make a run.

And Purdue might make a run, who knows.

But, please, let's not chastise Bryson Scott if he turns the ball over five times and goes 1-9 from the field, in a 10 point loss to Oklahoma State. Let's not scold Stephens if he throws up a few air balls or doesn't shoot a wide-open three. And let's not get down on Smotherman if his all-around game is a few notches behind his athleticism.

After all, they're just freshmen.

And this isn't Kentucky.


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