Young Purdue basketball squad prepares for trip to Italy
By Brian Peloza Post-Tribune correspondent July 16, 2012 11:20PM
Purdue coach Matt Painter gives instructions during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 83-58. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Updated: August 18, 2012 6:34AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue’s 10-day overseas trip to Italy is coming at an opportune time for what will be a young 2012-13 Boilermakers’ team.
Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson and Ryne Smith were each multiple-year starters who graduated from last year’s NCAA tournament team. In their place, Purdue will look to its 20th-ranked recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, to fill some of those voids.
Freshman Ronnie Johnson will likely start at point guard this season, while 7-footer A.J. Hammons and a pair of LaPorte LaLumiere products — 6-9 Jay Simpson and 6-5 Raphael Davis — could all make immediate contributions.
All of the freshmen will participate in the 10 practices leading up to the 10-day, four-game trip.
“Our young guys are really going to get quite the experience,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said after his team’s first practice on Monday.
No set plays were practiced on Monday, as everything was kept simple with a new-look roster.
“Right now we’re just getting into things and doing the basic drills,” said Purdue senior D.J. Byrd, last year’s Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. “We’re figuring out who we want diving to the basket, who is setting ball screens. It takes some time who can see who can do what and who is comfortable doing certain things.”
The players aren’t alone in gaining a sense of familiarity.
“I’m also trying to figure out things myself,” Painter said. “Sometimes with an inexperienced team you need to go in there and figure out some things on the fly.”
Purdue’s last overseas trip came in the summer of 2008 when they went 2-3 in Australia, later winning the Big Ten Tournament Championship and advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Playing overseas will be a physically difficult matchup, Painter said, noting each game is a true road contest.
“This is what they do for a living and they’re in their late 20s and early 30s,” Painter said,. “If they don’t perform, then they lose their job. It’s serious to them and it’s business-like, and they’re very, very physical which helped our (2008) team mature.”