I was going to include these evaluations in my (pending) recruiting preview, but it seems more appropriate to piggy-back off of Travis's last post and outline the impact that Matt Painter's incoming class might make next season.
The Class of 2011 might not drop many jaws on paper, but Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson, along with redshirt freshman Anthony Johnson, will each fill huge voids Purdue desperately needs to remain competitive in the Big Ten.
The class as a whole will inject some much needed athleticism to the team next season. While they have
some many developmental needs that need to be addressed, they still might be called upon merely out of necessity.
In short, they are a bit of a wildcard in that the work that they put into their games, along with Matt Painter's ability to develop them, will ultimately decide the limit for all three incoming recruits. Anthony Johnson should be ready to contribute heavily from day one, while Hale and Lawson will likely be players that will start out with a limited role and blossom over time as they develop and learn Matt Painter's system.
Anthony Johnson SG (6'4/175) - (For reference, here's the preseason post on Johnson I wrote before he was redshirted.) Anthony Johnson (Whitney Young HS) was the recruit I was most excited to see play this past season, but his lack of strength was an obvious necessity that needed to be addressed. After a year of learning Matt Painter's philosophy and hitting the weight room, Anthony Johnson will begin his eligibility with more momentum than most freshmen, obviously.
While he is most noted for his accuracy behind the arc, his biggest asset is his confidence. If the preseason games last season taught us anything, it's that Anthony Johnson won't put Ryne Smith's pump-fake record in any jeopardy. AJ has a great deal of confidence and reluctance to shoot the ball will not be a problem for AJ (although selecting ‘good shots' might be).
Despite his Reggie Miller-esque frame, he has a good solid vertical and is not afraid to attack the basket. Playing in the competitive Chicago Public School league, Anthony Johnson overpowered bigger players using his aggressiveness and athleticism despite his size. He was also very active on the boards, which is important in Painter's system. Along with his offensive, his swagger will take many fans by surprise.
And make no mistake, the time he spent analyzing each game next to coach Robbie Hummel will pay dividends in his ability to break down plays.
'11-'12 Projection:I think Anthony Johnson works his way to being a solid contributor, much the way Terone Johnson was this year. We obviously graduated half of the offense and this might make AJ's shooting touch difficult to keep on the bench. However, he needs to be able to make his shots if he wants the minutes, as well as demonstrating good shot selection. It's not always easy to project how a kid will fair transitioning to the college level, but his redshirt year should smooth out the process.
Donnie HaleSF/PF (6'7/205 lbs) - Donnie Hale (Bridgton Academy) had a solid season as the undisputed leader of Bridgton Academy (Maine). Hale averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds for BA, which played against some of the top Prep Schools in New England
Donnie Hale is on the border between a 3 and 4, but has work to do to fit the mold for either position. Right now, he's built small for a 4 but lacks the shooting touch to be a viable 3. Regardless, he can still help the team in a big way from day 1.
Hale's athleticism will be very important to help weather the storm resulting from the loss of JaJuan Johnson. He's always demonstrated a knack for rebounding and blocking shots, which will be a much needed asset compared to the flat-footed trio of the Bade/Carroll/Marcius. Provided he can play defense to Painter's standards, he'll be a useful weapon when we need to put a body on an athletic 4. He'll definitely struggle starting out, but as soon as he gains some strength, he'll have an important role.
Despite his athleticism, his offense is still a work in progress. He's always been efficient near the rim due to his pogo-stick legs, but he is still developing his outside shot. Make no mistake; he has come a long way from being basically only effective around the rim to being a decent three-point shooter. He still as a lot of work to do on his offensive fundamentals to be an effective offensive threat at the 3 spot, and he's pretty undersized to be a Big Ten 4. However, if he gains strength and addresses his fundamental, he'll be a very important weapon in Painter's arsenal.
It's also worth noting that he should have instant rapport with Travis Carroll, as they played on the same AAU team, and ultimately had a very successful summer together down-low.
'11-'12 Projection:I think Donnie Hale will start out the season splitting minutes with Patrick Bade behind Robbie Hummel. He'll be in an interesting situation as Robbie Hummel's capacity is very much an unknown and Bade is obviously also "a work in progress," to put kindly. If he proves effective defensively, he could give Matt Painter some options to run a bigger lineup. But at the end of the day, he is in a very uncertain position overall. Hale may end up being very important asset against teams built like Minnesota, which Purdue has really struggled against as of late.
Jacob Lawson (6'8/220 lbs) When Oak Ridge Military Academy's Jacob Lawson committed to Purdue, his mix-tapes excited the Purdue message boards as they were unmistakeably impressive. I'm never a big fan of basing my evaluations on highlight videos, but at the very least you can conclude that he has an impressive vertical and is more than efficient around the rim. But as you know, this doesn't always tell the entire story.
Lawson was a big part of Oak Ridge's success prior to his Achilles tendon injury. Lawson was averaging 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 blockers per game on a team loaded with D-1 talent prior to his achilles tendon injury suffered on January 14th.
Although he was not the focal point of their offense, Lawson was a huge factor in ORMA's success. In the two ORMA games I watched, he got his points, he got his rebounds, he got his blocks, but he did it all so effortlessly that you forgot he was on the court. He wasn't a big part of the offensive rotation, but he cleaned up off of offensive rebounds.
But his outside shooting is definitely a work in progress as is his ball handling.
Regardless, he has unmistakable talent, athleticism, and size. His ability to stay motivated and keep himself engaged 100% of the time will be the determining factor of how successful he becomes at the next level. Like Donnie Hale, Jacob Lawson can be transformed into a big time player if he addresses these weaknesses. Matt Painter will not tolerate someone not playing at 100%, so I am not too worried about his commitment.
'11-'12 Projection: As noted, he tore his Achilles tendon in January, but is expected to be 100% by the time he makes it on campus this summer. This should not have an impact on his playing status. There has been a lot of speculation that he is a likely redshirt next season, but I wouldn't put any money on it. There's a good chance that Painter will want to have all-hands on deck as he enters the unknown waters of life after JJ/Moore. If Painter doesn't think Lawson will be able to help out in any way next season he'll likely redshirt him, but size is often a commodity that he'd like to have as a contingency. Either way, it's a decision that won't be made until well after practices start again, so there is no point guessing now. I
don't think Lawson is ready to be part of the regular rotation next season, but Painter might give him minutes during the pre-conference schedule to give him experience. He'll have an uphill battle to earn his minutes beyond that.
Overall, I think that Anthony Johnson, Donnie Hale, and Jacob Lawson will find their niches as freshmen and contribute to the team's success, but their real upside will be realized later down the road. Hale and Lawson will be raw, but they will also prove a great opportunity for Painter to prove his ability to develop talent.