For the first time in five years Purdue started started their exhibition opener without JaJuan Johnson, Robbie Hummel, and E'Twaun Moore. A new era of Boilermaker hoops is around the corner, and last night we caught a glimpse of what this season could bring us. We had our moments where we looked good, but then there were others where youth set in and silly mistakes were made. For the moment that's fine; I'd rather see mistakes in exhibition games and get that out of the way before the regular season kicks off.
Terone Johnson has been getting national recognition over the past few days about being a breakout player this year, and tonight he showed off why. TJ scored 24 points on 14 shots while also getting a block, a steal, and two assists. Johnson exploded to the rim aggressively and was hitting his shots from behind the arc; although taking seven 3s may not be in his best interest in the regular season, but hey exhibition game so whatever. What he did demonstrate is big play ability, as he hit a clutch 3-pointer when Montevello started to close in on the Boilers.
And then there was Ronnie Johnson. I keep bouncing back on who I'm most excited to see this season between the five freshmen (Rapheal & Hale are tied for first), but tonight RJ helped his stock in my book. RJ looked comfortable running the offense throughout the game. Sure there were some goofs, but that's expected of a freshmen. Ronnie looked like the second best player on the court next to his brother for the most part; leading the team in assists with six while scoring eleven points, pulling down three rebounds and getting a steal. He'll need to work a bit on decision making as he tried to force a few passes that would've worked in high school, but not at the college level. Regardless, Ronnie looks extremely comfortable, runs the break like a gem, and the chemistry between Terone & RJ is incredible to watch. He's confident, his passing ability is a thing of beauty, and the dude is really really fast. A true pass first point guard that fits this team well.
Then there were the bigs, who were not as impressive as I had hoped yet still played well. Donnie Hale had the best game statistically out of our big men with eight points, an assist, a rebound, and three blocks. However, I'd have to A.J. Hammons had the best game overall. His presence in the paint changes the game and he alters every shot that comes his way; you have to think twice about driving, shooting, or feeding a big man in the post when Hammons is down there. Hammons hit all of his shots, scoring 7 points with five rebounds and a block. He's got soft hands and was making good decisions. Painter is probably going to stick with starting Sandi Marcius for the beginning, but Hammons has a greater upside and could easily take over the starting spot down the road.
Anthony Johnson looks to be a scoring threat as well, and will be one of our best options as the first person off the bench depending on how big or small Painter wants to go. AJ scored 12 points on 4-9 shooting, 2-4 from 3, with three rebounds, and an assist. He's explosive like Terone and has that confident swagger that a good ball player needs; not to be confused with a cocky doucher; but a good ball player needs to be confident in his abilities and both AJ and Terone have that. He has a good looking shot and likes contact on his drives.
Now for the players I was a little let down by or disappointed in. If anyone saw the D.J. Byrd that finished the season for us last year, please tell him to return to campus. I'm only kidding and realize it's an exhibition game and Byrd will more than likely not have too many more games like this, but you do like a player that had one of the best 3-point percentages in the nation last year hit some shots. Byrd finished his night with four turnovers, zero points on four shots, three rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Defensively Byrd did well, and I'm fine with that. Byrd has always been that type of player where CMP will say "D.J., do this for the game and don't worry about anything else" and he does it. Exhibit A: In Smooge and JJ's last season when we played MSU at home Byrd shut down Draymond Green; one of the best players in the conference who had a size, weight, and experience advantages on him. I'm not too worried about Byrd, just let down by his offensive performance.
The Chooch Train continues to be a strong rebounder, but he keeps showing his lack of understanding of the game and commits stupid fouls; plus his hands still look like they are made of buttery concrete at times. Chooch finished the night with four points, seven boards and two blocks. Sandi will have a lot of games like this, but I think the big guy has a couple double-doubles in him this season. Let down, but not disappointed.
Rapheal Davis: Offensively disappointed. Everywhere else: Excited . I think Davis has the potential to be one of the best players on this team. But when our leading scorer from the Italy trip went 1-6, you have to be a little disappointed. His jump shot needs a little work, but the dude can drive and get to the rim. Davis finished with four points, three boards, two assists, and a block. Davis looks like what we all wanted Kelsey Barlow to be; an incredibly athletic wing that can score, pass, rebound, and play lock-down defense. Rapheal is going to be an impact player on this team down the stretch. I'm extremely excited to see him go up against IU's Victor Oladipo because of how similar in size and game they are, from what I've seen thus far.
Guys who didn't really play much and was hard to see what their role will be: Jacob Lawson, Travis Carroll, Jay Simpson, and Dru Anthrop. Simpson still doesn't seem in game shape and is looking to be a strong candidate for a redshirt. But we've got another game Saturday for Painter to make his decision. TC did just about nothing and I think he's going to be lost in rotation because of the quality bigs we have. This will sound harsh, but after last season's performance I'm fine with it. Nothing personal to TC, but he's destined to be a low quality role player. He'll have some good moments this season, but I don't have high expectations for the guy. The Law still looks like his body moves faster than he can think, but has a high motor and plays his heart out when he's on the court. We'll see how he does Saturday. Dru didn't get much of a chance to show himself off either. I'm a big fan of Dru and have met him multiple times. He's a genuinely good guy and I hope he gets minutes this year and isn't competing for Mark Titus' Club Trillion National Player Of They Year award.
This team is young, and will give us all a lot of headaches this season. But overall I think they have more upside than ones of recent past because of depth. We won't be relying on a couple guys to get us all the points and make plays; we've got a handful of people on the team who are showing they are capable to do that. We're also much bigger and more athletic than we've been in recent years. We can play huge or we can do small ball. Painter has a lot of options with this team, and it'll be fun to watch them going forward. Saturday's game will be another fun one to watch and hopefully we'll see more promise from our guys.
On a closing note, here is a video taken post game with the Johnsons. In case you don't catch it, Anthony tries to hide his laughter at Ronnie for his lack of experience with talking to the press, which is kind of funny.