The recruiting game has changed

Matt Painter's recruitment as a player was much different than the process is now.

WEST LAFAYETTE - It has been just more than 25 years since former assistant coach Bruce Weber strolled into the Delta High School gym near Muncie to watch lanky guard Matt Painter play basketball.

Basketball recruiting was so much less complicated and technical, and certainly much more regional then than it is now.

Weber, now the head coach at Kansas State, advised then-Boilermaker coach Gene Keady to offer Painter a scholarship. Eventually, Painter accepted and played four seasons at Purdue, where he now is the guy offering the basketball scholarship as head coach.

On Wednesday, Painter signed his 10th recruiting class, which consists of 6-7 wing Vince Edwards, 6-5 shooting guard Dakota Mathias and 6-9 power forward Jacquil Taylor. Edwards and Mathias are from Ohio, and Taylor is from Massachusetts.

Like Painter's first class of Kory Spates, Marcus Green, Chris Lutz and Nate Minnoy, there are no native Hoosiers in the class that will enroll this coming summer. At least for now. Painter said Wednesday that he would like to add a center and possibly another guard in the spring, so there potentially could be a kid from Indiana in his 10th recruiting class.

Landing A.J. Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis and Jay Simpson in 2012 and Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman in 2013, Painter appears to have Purdue's future back on track when Edwards, Mathias and Taylor arrive, but it does not get any easier when we look at the talent that Michigan State, Kentucky, Kansas and Duke put on the floor Tuesday night in Chicago's United Center, where more than 60 NBA scouts or executives were on hand to take notes and drool.

"(Recruiting) changes from time to time," Painter said Wednesday afternoon. "Now, we can talk to them more, whether that is on the phone or in person, starting in their junior year when you try to get them to your campus as much as possible.

"You want to continue to build that relationship. The culture we have in America in terms of basketball is such an individualistic culture. Guys play on different All-Star teams during high school, and then some leave high school and go to a prep school."

Yet internationally, according to Painter, players tend to stick together as a country and as the best players from that country.

"We are a little bit different," Painter said. "You have to be careful in recruiting, because you can recruit some good kids and good players, but if they are used to jumping around a lot ... a coach wants to be able to build.

"We have done that with some guys. We have liked them as players and as people, but if something goes wrong, it is easy for them to pack their bags and god someplace else. That is the way the basketball culture has dealt with that. You try to do the best you can to find guys that can weather some storms and handle adversity. You want to get your type of player and person. But it is hard to be able to figure that out all the time."

Among Painter's first class, only Green stayed four years. Lutz, Minnoy and Spates packed their bags. He also lost Scott Martin, Kelsey Barlow, Jacob Lawson, Anthony Johnson, Sandi Marcius and as recently as September, Donnie Hale.

But he also signed and kept E'Twaun Moore, Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, Chris Kramer, Keaton Grant, Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith and D.J. Byrd. Those guys scored lots of points and won lots of games.

The recruiting culture can and does drive fans, coaches and parents crazy. So crazy that player movement and coaching changes are more prevalent than ever. And it won't change any time soon.

Like most in high-profile coaching positions in power conferences, Painter has recruited those who are playing for the name on the front of the jersey (Purdue), and some who play only for themselves.

It is a unique culture, so much different than when Bruce Weber watched a lanky guard from Delta High School, the man who 25 years later is offering basketball scholarships on behalf of Purdue.

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