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OSIPOFF: Depleted roster clouds future for last-place Purdue

Purdue's A.J. Hammonds (20) Raphael Davis (35) Travis Carroll (50) Ronnie Johnswalk off court after team's 76-70 loss Wisconsan NCAA

Purdue's A.J. Hammonds (20), Raphael Davis (35), Travis Carroll (50) and Ronnie Johnson walk off the court after the team's 76-70 loss to Wisconsin in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis) ORG XMIT: WIAM108

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Updated: April 21, 2014 7:04PM



Whether you view Ronnie Johnson’s transfer as addition by subtraction or subtraction by subtraction for Purdue, there’s no doubt it dramatically changes the dynamic going into next season.

Without their two-year starting point guard, the Boilermakers currently have just one player on their roster at that position in Bryson Scott.

He has the work ethic, drive and determination to improve, but the freshman scuffled to adapt to that role this season. P.J. Thompson, too, has verbally committed, giving Purdue another option at that spot, a crucial one in general and a focus of coach Matt Painter in particular (with his consistent talk about decision-making and taking care of the ball and shot selection; also, recall the position’s responsibility in Purdue’s traditional pressure defense).

When the Indianapolis Brebeuf point guard signs his letter of intent (the late period begins on April 16), the Boilermakers officially will have five incoming freshmen in their recruiting class (joining forward Vincent Edwards, guard Dakota Mathias, and big men Isaac Haas and Jacquil Taylor) — matching the number of scholarship players scheduled to return.

With Terone Johnson, Travis Carroll, Sterling Carter and Errick Peck completing their eligibility, and Jay Simpson’s career-ending heart condition, sophomores A.J. Hammons and Rapheal Davis, and freshmen Scott, Kendall Stephens and Basil Smotherman remain.

Purdue had entered this season with six returning scholarship players (including Simpson, who had redshirted after playing 10 games) and five newcomers (the three freshmen and two graduate transfers), with four players having transferred (and two more graduating).

So in recent seasons, a sense of unfamiliarity has not been uncommon for the Boilermakers, who currently don’t have any scholarship seniors-to-be.

Given their composition, they seemingly would be in position to add a player (or more) in the spring, dipping into the increasingly competitive (and unpredictable) fifth-year senior market and/or the junior college ranks (less likely). But how many newcomers can one team realistically incorporate?

With that absence of seniors and with the amount of first-year players entering the program, it’s more and more looking like Davis’ team.

And that might not be the worst development for Purdue, considering his demeanor and the plaudits that Painter has sent in his direction (including this post-Northwestern gem: “If everybody cared and worked as hard as Rapheal Davis, we’d be wearing diamonds. I really believe that. He has a great heart, he’s a great guy, he cares about Purdue. We need more of that, we need to recruit more of that.”)

Even if Ronnie Johnson wouldn’t have been that type of leader for the Boilermakers, he’s still a talented player, one who seemingly has the ability to make further strides, even if he and Painter didn’t always see eye-to-eye.

And as if it wasn’t important before, it becomes even more so for the Boilermakers that Hammons returns, that he delays entering the NBA draft for at least one more season.

Next season figures to be a pivotal one for the program, after back-to-back losing records and NCAA Tournament misses. The prospect of heading into it without both the two-year staring point guard and two-year starting center — both potential difference-makers at key positions — can’t be particularly appealing for Purdue.

The departure of Johnson alone makes the Boilermakers’ outlook murkier.



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