Purdue must essentially start from scratch, reconstructing its roster in many ways. Add the fact that coach Matt Painter now finds himself on the hot seat, and the need for change is critical. This offseason must reshape the program for the next few years of Boilermaker basketball.
The current Purdue roster—without incoming freshmen, departing seniors and potential transfers—features five scholarship players. Should A.J. Hammons opt for the NBA Draft, it would be four. It's expected that at least two transfers will be added to the program, joining a starting five of freshmen. With such a setup, Painter will have his hands full finding a rotation.
How, you ask, will the Boilermakers work out roles for the important 2014-15 season?
Returning: Rapheal Davis, Junior; Bryson Scott, Sophomore; Kendall Stephens, Sophomore; *Anfernee Brown, Sophomore; *Jon McKeeman, Junior; *Stephen Toyra, Junior
Entering: P.J. Thompson; Dakota Mathias
Departing: Sterling Carter (Graduation); Ronnie Johnson (Transfer); Terone Johnson (Graduation)
So, here's the most important question Matt Painter currently faces: At point guard, should he start the inconsistent Bryson Scott or the true freshman P.J. Thompson? Surely, the two will work in a rotation, but this has to be split in a certain, consistent manner. Ronnie Johnson's parting shots to Purdue suggested Painter didn't balance the minutes well, causing a loss of confidence. He may have been right.
Scott struggled all around last season, regressing in his first season. He vows to be better, but that's easier said than done. As for Thompson, his sure-handed game would be well suited at Purdue, where there are plenty of weapons to work with.
The shooting position may be the only sure thing in Purdue's starting five, where Rapheal Davis emerged as a true scorer and leader for the Boilermakers. Kendall Stephens could also start at guard, or freshman Dakota Mathias could join the mix.
Painter isn't going to throw a scholarship at a veteran point guard unless there's true trust present. Both Scott and Thompson are capable of running the court, but both have flaws in their games. It would have to be a perfect situation—see the Sterling Carter addition, for example—to add a point guard.
At guard, there are plenty of question marks, but several possible solutions.
The days of Robbie Hummel seem so far away from this Purdue program. Oh, what Matt Painter would do for a go-to four like Hummel in his lineup.
Perhaps Vince Edwards can become that guy for the Boilermakers. This was the prized recruit for Painter, the prospect he chased for several years. It's hard to see Edwards being anything but a success as a Boilermaker. Smotherman plays a different type of role, scoring primarily around the baseline. He and Edwards can be a dangerous duo when playing together.
The question at forward is Taylor, the talented unknown Painter recruited in. It's hard to predict the future of any recruit, but especially one fresh off an ACL injury. At the very least, he'll be a solid role player at the four and rotate in at center when Purdue goes with a small lineup.
A transfer at the forward position is badly needed. Virginia Tech departure Trevor Thompson is the top target, though he appears to be leaning toward Ohio State. There's always the possibility of somebody else leaving, but Painter would be wise to shoot for a fifth-year transfer rather than burning a scholarship on a regular transfer.
Striking out in the college free-agent market would be a bad break for the Boilermakers.
Returning: A.J. Hammons, Junior (Draft status still uncertain)
Entering: Isaac Haas
Possibility A: A.J. Hammons returns to West Lafayette for a junior season, passing on the NBA Draft possibility. The Boilermakers have a great situation with the 7-footer platooning with four-star freshman big man Isaac Haas. The two would form the most lethal duo of bigs in the Big Ten.
Possibility B: Hammons forgoes his junior season and heads off to the NBA. Then, Haas is the only true center on the roster, with Taylor working in for a smaller lineup. Should Hammons leave Purdue—and Painter can only hope a decision comes soon—a transfer is desperately needed, yet won't be easy to find.
There's nothing more to this position. It's all about what Hammons decides in the coming weeks.