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Purdue Boilermakers (Last Year: 16-18, 8-10 in Big Ten)
2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:
C: A.J. Hammons (Soph)/Travis Carroll (Sr)
PF: Errick Peck (Sr)/Jay Simpson (Fr)
G/F: Raphael Davis (Soph)/Basil Smotherman (Fr)
SG: Terone Johnson (Sr)/Kendall Stephens (Fr)
PG: Ronnie Johnson (Soph)/Sterling Carter (Sr)/Bryson Scott (Fr)
Gone: F-D.J. Byrd, G-Dru Anthrop, PF-Donnie Hale (transfer), PG-Anthony Johnson (transfer), F/C-Sandi Marcius (transfer-DePaul), PF-Jacob Lawson (transfer-Appalachian State)
The Purdue Boilermakers streak of six straight trips to the NCAA Tournament ended last season as they finished with a losing record for the first time since Matt Painter’s first year as head coach. Purdue should be slightly improved this year, but with another stacked Big Ten Conference, a return to the tournament is far from a given.
The Johnson brothers will lead the charge for Painter this year. Terone Johnson emerged as the Boilermakers’ go-to scorer last season, while little brother Ronnie did a nice job in being handed the keys to the offense as a true freshman. Neither guy shoots it exceptionally well from deep and becoming more consistent and reliable outside threats would be a huge plus for Purdue since the team lost its top three-point shooter from last year, D.J. Byrd.
The other major piece for the Boilermakers is emerging seven-footer A.J. Hammons. The size and ability to protect the rim are already there (Hammons finished second in the Big Ten in blocked shots a year ago as a freshman), but now the big fella must become more aggressive on the glass and polish his low-post game to really take the next step in his development.
Purdue lost four players to transfer this offseason and brings in five new faces, including a pair of graduate student transfers in Cornell’s Errick Peck and Sterling Carter of Seattle, who add experience and nice pieces around the Johnson’s and Hammons. At 6-6, Peck figures to take over Byrd’s role as the undersized power forward who possesses a nice face-up game. Carter adds defense, experience, and needed three-point shooting off the bench.
Another player to keep an eye on is wing Raphael Davis, who spent half of his freshman campaign in the starting lineup. He is a physical off-guard who suffered his share of ups and downs during his first college season but should be more comfortable and bigger threat for the Boilers this year. A trio of freshmen will be worked into the mix at guard, as well, led by Kendall Stephens, who is a lengthy wing capable of catching fire from deep.
Due to the transfers of Hale, Lawson, and Marcius, there aren’t a whole lot of options inside for Painter, which will be an area of concern. Jay Simpson is a redshirt freshman who missed the final 24 games of last year due to a foot injury. Travis Carroll is the other post player on the roster, but he is really nothing more than an energy reserve to allow Hammons some time to rest.
The Big Ten will get six teams, possibly seven into the Big Dance. Purdue, Illinois, and Minnesota figure to be on that cut-off line. For the Boilermakers to emerge from that group, they will need big seasons from the Johnson brothers and Hammons, while getting enough production from their complementary role players.
Player to Watch: A.J. Hammons, C
Any time a seven-footer shows any sense of skill as a freshman, he catches the attention of NBA Scouts. That’s what happened last year with Hammons, and if he impresses even more so this season, it might be his last one in West Lafayette as it seems like he would be a first-round lock for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Key Non-Conference Games:
Predicted Big Ten Finish: 7th
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