OSIPOFF: A.J. Hammons still a Boiler; Matt Painter ready to ‘move on’
By Michael Osipoff email@example.com Twitter: @MichaelOsipoff April 16, 2014 11:08PM
Purdue's A.J. Hammons shoots between Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson, left, and Frank Kaminsky during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis) ORG XMIT: WIAM1
Updated: May 19, 2014 2:01PM
A little more than a month has elapsed since Purdue’s basketball season ended, with the Boilermakers losing seven straight games to finish with a 15-17 record, in last place in the Big Ten.
On Wednesday, coach Matt Painter addressed reporters extensively for the first time since Purdue lost to Ohio State in the first round of the conference tournament, reflecting on what went wrong for the Boilermakers and looking ahead to the 2014-15 season.
“You always second-guess when things don’t work,” Painter said. “We try our best to set the table, and make guys understand what’s it going to take to be successful. I’m a big believer in that you can outwork people. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and we weren’t good enough this year.
“It’s no secret we didn’t have great chemistry. I don’t think everybody was pulling the rope in the same direction. As we go on, we’re going to have that. That’s something we weren’t just OK at before — we were great at it. We’ve done this before. It’s one of those things, you learn from it, you move on. You just don’t keep dwelling on the past, but you do learn from it. We have to get to work.”
And there also was this nugget.
“I want to move on and get better, and help guys,” he said. “We’ve had good workouts in the spring. The horse is dead — why don’t we get off it?”
Purdue on Wednesday announced that sophomore center A.J. Hammons had decided to return to the program for next season, after having contemplated leaving to enter the NBA draft.
“I’ve decided to stay and continue my education here at Purdue, and there are a lot of goals I still want to accomplish with my teammates on the court,” Hammons said in a news release. “First and foremost, we want to get back to the postseason and compete for a Big Ten title.
“Coach Painter has been fantastic during this process with me. We have gone over every report, and I have a good feel for where I stand and what I need to improve on.”
Earlier in the day, Painter had said he was planning to meet with Hammons — who averaged 10.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.1 blocked shots this past season, making the Big Ten All-Defensive Team — to further discuss the circumstances, with April 27 the deadline for underclassmen to declare.
Hammons, who had sought feedback from the NBA undergraduate advisory committee, was informed last week he projected as a mid-to-late second-round pick or could go undrafted. In the interim, Painter had been collecting additional information from NBA personnel, also allowing Hammons to digest his likely draft status.
“A lot of those people in that area end up overseas or end up in the D-League,” Painter had said. “There are some of them — not a lot of them — that end up in the NBA. In my opinion, he has to play the percentages of where things are. But I also give him the information and allow him to make his own decision.
“We’re going to support him no matter what he does. … I want him to do what’s best for him.”
Wednesday also began the late signing period, with P.J. Thompson inking his letter of intent with Purdue. The Indianapolis Brebeuf point guard had verbally committed to the Boilermakers about a month ago, days after their loss to Northwestern in the regular-season finale.
Painter praised Thompson’s leadership, toughness, smarts, communication skills, passing, and ability to make three-pointers and pull-up jumpers.
“He is someone who has been very successful,” Painter said. “His makeup as a person and a player is what attracted us to him from Day 1.
“He just has a lot of winning qualities. … That’s what a point guard does — a point guard makes other people better, and we think he’s going to do that for us.”
Painter started recruiting Thompson his freshman season, before offering him a scholarship as a senior.
“We’ve been fans of P.J. since he was 14, 15 years old,” Painter said. “We just think we’re getting a really good basketball player.
“We were very fortunate that he was still available and we were able to get him. We really feel like we got a steal.”
Thompson — an Indiana All-Star whose father, LaSalle, also made that team in 1991 along with Glenn Robinson and Andrean graduate Brandon Brantley, now a Boilermakers assistant — joins fellow incoming freshmen forward Vince Edwards, guard Dakota Mathias, and big men Isaac Haas and Jacquil Taylor.
With the five-player recruiting class and five returning scholarship players, Purdue has three available. The Boilermakers, who have no rising seniors on their roster, continue to explore their options, at every position.
“Obviously, if you use them (scholarships) for fifth-years, you can use them again for 2015,” Painter said. “If you use them for transfers, there’s one off the board for 2015. We just have to focus on getting the right guy and continue to get guys that fit with us. I really like our (freshman) class. All five guys fit at Purdue.”