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Osipoff: Purdue may not be deep, but they’ll have talent

Purdue guard Ronnie Johnsright attempts hold off Penn State guard KevMontminy first half an NCAA college basketball game West Lafayette

Purdue guard Ronnie Johnson, right, attempts to hold off Penn State guard Kevin Montminy in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in West Lafayette, Ind., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: May 19, 2013 7:49AM



First Sandi Marcius. Then Jacob Lawson. And then Anthony Johnson.

After a circuitous season for Purdue in which it underperformed, it already has been an active offseason for the Boilermakers. In the last week — in a span of five days, one player for three straight business days, if you will — the school announced that Marcius, Lawson and Johnson each had requested and been granted a release from his scholarship.

With his consistent laments about the 2012-13 team’s issues with such areas as work ethic and toughness during the course of the season, coach Matt Painter hinted — in not all that veiled a way — at possible changes following its conclusion. Some indeed have come to fruition.

The departures of Lawson and Johnson weren’t exactly surprising, with the handwriting on the wall to a fair degree. Both had fallen down the depth chart, and their prospects for playing time weren’t all that bright.

The situation with Marcius was more layered, in so far as it seemed that Painter legitimately wanted the big man to return for a fifth year. But it didn’t happen, of course.

So the trio of transfers has set up some interesting dynamics for the Boilermakers going forward.

At the moment, they have only 10 scholarship players on their roster, with no juniors for next season (meaning no seniors for the following season). Again, they will have a young team in 2013-14; of those 10 players, a combined eight will be sophomores (A.J. Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis, redshirt Donnie Hale) and freshmen (redshirt Jay Simpson, Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott, Basil Smotherman). Terone Johnson and Travis Carroll will be seniors.

The Boilermakers do have three scholarships available for next season, and it’s clearly not beyond the realm of possibility they could add a player (or possibly even players) this spring (the late signing period began on Wednesday). In that case, from Purdue’s perspective, it might be preferable to add a fifth-year type (or maybe a junior college player/transfer with two seasons of eligibility) as opposed to a freshman, for the sake of class balance and its scholarship grid (though the Boilermakers obviously wouldn’t say no to the “right” player, regardless of class).

Even if Purdue goes into next season with only those 10 scholarship players, it will have considerable talent; it might not be ideal for the Boilermakers depth-wise, but it would be eminently workable nonetheless.

Their freshmen — particularly Hammons, Ronnie Johnson and Davis — gained valuable experience this past season. And their incoming freshmen are highly regarded (in its most recent recruiting rankings released this week, Rivals.com rated the class No. 23 nationally, with Stephens No. 61, Scott No. 75 and Smotherman No. 112, all considered four-star prospects; and Simpson will come out of redshirt).

There are a lot of “ifs” for the Boilermakers — if Hammons and his enormously promising game matures, if Ronnie Johnson continues to develop at the point, if Davis continues to emerge as a leader, if Terone Johnson takes ownership of the team, if the freshmen make the anticipated impact.

But they have a lot of potential (a dangerous word, no doubt).

They should fulfill it — get back to making the NCAA tournament and challenging in the Big Ten — with this rocky season and offseason likely proving to be a turning point.



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