Men’s basketball: With 4 freshmen, 6 players taller than 6-8, Purdue has new look
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com October 22, 2012 11:26PM
Purdue's Sandi Marcius practices Thursday, March 17, 2011, at the United Center in Chicago. Purdue will play St. Peter's in the second round of the NCAA Basketball Championship on Friday. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: November 24, 2012 6:25AM
WEST LAFAYETTE — Among the things that stand out with Purdue’s basketball team this season are its size and youth.
The Boilermakers list six players at least 6-foot-8 on their roster in 7-0 freshman A.J. Hammons, 6-9 juniors Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll, 6-9 freshman Jay Simpson, 6-8 redshirt freshman Donnie Hale and 6-8 sophomore Jacob Lawson; and have four freshmen in Hammons, Simpson, Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis (five including Hale).
“It is a big difference between this year’s team and last year’s team,” senior swingman D.J. Byrd — with the team’s new composition, expected to move back to the wing from power forward — said on Monday during the Boilermakers’ media day.
Last season, the Boilermakers relied on spreading out their offense, taking care of the ball and shooting from the perimeter. This season, they could focus more on driving to the basket and getting the ball inside.
“We have a very deep, but yet unproven, frontcourt,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “… We’re going to be more of a traditional, kind of old-school Big Ten team with a couple of bookend-type big guys.
“Obviously, we have to play differently on the offensive end. … That being said, I thought we were a poor defensive team — we really struggled on the defensive end.”
The Boilermakers also struggled with rebounding, an area that has been an issue for several seasons. But they could be better this season.
“If we’re not, then we’re in trouble. … Maybe we won’t be as efficient offensively, but then you get your possessions back on the glass,” Painter said.
Taking shape? The starting lineup could be coming together. Ronnie Johnson is the team’s only true point guard, and Byrd and junior Terone Johnson seem set on the wings. The long and athletic Hale — in shape, bigger and stronger, and more mature after a year at prep school and then redshirting — has been separating himself at power forward from Lawson and Simpson.
“Donnie Hale, in my opinion, has really surfaced as the guy that will play at the four for us,” Painter said.
Hammons, Marcius and Carroll have been competing at center.
There are essentially five players — Byrd, Terone Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Anthony Johnson and Davis — in the hunt for the three starting backcourt spots, with Dru Anthrop also in the mix. After Ronnie Johnson, Anthony Johnson has spent the most time at point guard in practice, with Terone Johnson also playing the position.
“We need some people at the worst, outside of Ronnie, that are serviceable in terms of being that quintessential point guard,” Painter said. “There’s a lot of good pieces there. … I think we’re going to be really good; I just don’t know when.”
Sitting out: Anthony Johnson hurt his Achilles’ tendon on Saturday, and did not practice on Sunday. He tried to go on Monday, but could not. Johnson could return to practice on Tuesday, though he also could miss a few additional days.