Today Purdue held an open practice that members of the Paint Crew could watch. I had a lot of thoughts and was skeptic about a lot of the hype that was coming out from media and interviews. This practice was very enlightening and I was able to attend the entire practice. Here are my thoughts on our players and team.
Im not really going to mention much on effort from the team because, just as reported, everyone brought great intensity and effort. Some players took a little longer to turn on their hustle but it didnt take long. During practice there were basically 2 teams formed with Black jerseys and Gold jerseys. These teams had nothing to do with starting and from what i cold tell were just put together.
Gold: PG: Ronnie, SG: Sterling, SF: Rapheal, PF: Basil, C: AJ, SUBS: Travis, Anfernee, Toyra
Black: PG: Bryson, SG: Terone, SF: Kendall, PF: Peck, C: Jay, SUBS: Beshears, McKeeman
The players that are the same positions were the ones guarding each other majority of practice.
Ronnie Johnson: Ronnie was the clear best choice for starting point guard. When Sterling and Bryson were given their chances they were good but Ronnie was just better at running his team and taking care of the ball. If it is possible i think Ronnie got faster. He made great cuts, ball handling was tight and made good decisions with the ball and his shots. His shot was improved in all aspects. Looked good with the ball and made some great shots.
Bryson Scott: Defensively, Bryson was just what everyone always said he was. Even with Ronnie's speed and craftiness Bryson was able to stay right with him and just hounded him all practice. Those two are so fun to watch. They get into it a bit with each other but nothing bad, just hard practice. On one occasion Bryson drove Ronnie to the ground and Painter called a foul and Bryson was looking at Painter, listening to his advice, and Ronnie was waiting for Bryson to help him up and he wouldnt so Ronnie just grabbed Brysons arm and heaved himself up. Bryson shook his arm away and they glared at each other for a minute. He was just a bully on Ronnie, sometimes committing dumb fouls that freshman are bound to make, and other times just bullying Ronnie to the ground. Bryson has very active hands and gets many touches on the ball even if it isnt a steal. From other aspects of his game Bryson will need some work. He is still getting the hang of the offense and taking care of the ball. Painter is on him hard about these things and he fixed a few during practice. He will be a great player for us but as far as his scoring and point guard abilities go he has some room to grow. Only problem with defense is dumb fouls.
Terone Johnson: Terone was just as you would expect him to be. He was vocal, showed he was the clear leader of the team, and played hard. TJ's scoring was not the thing that stuck out to me, it was his defense. Terone played great defense the entire practice, best defense i saw all practice, he was great. Wasnt great outside shooting and Free Throws but it was practice so i wouldnt read too much into it. This is clearly Terone's team and i think he will do great as a leader.
Sterling Carter: Sterling was also impressive on defense. He was all over Terone and did really well. On offense Sterling was all but shut down by Terone, not because he is an inferior player or new to this level of competition, its just that Terone was that good. The only points i recall Sporty getting were from 3's where he managed to break away for a second or get a kick out from AJ. Great addition to the team. Can make good shots.
Rapheal Davis: Davis might have beaten Bryson as the guy who was the most relentless. He was looked at to be more of a scoring option and looked comfortable doing it. I really have nothing bad to say about Davis, he did all things really well. He showed a little but of athleticism too during one play where he burned the defense and Neal Beshears all but had to dive out of the way lest he be posterized by a flying Davis.
Kendall Stephens: Kendall might have been one of the biggest surprises of the practice. I thought he would be soft, or weak, or slack off on defense, i was 100% WRONG. Kendall played great defense on Rapheal and others. You could tell a little that his strength was a little behind when fighting through screens or absorbing contact from driving defenders, but he showed really great play. Boilers get ready for this kid, IMO he was probably the 3rd most impressive person i saw on the court, only behind Jay and Hammons. His shooting is no joke either. Its not hype from high school anymore, he is clearly our best shooter but also did many other things well like pass, take care of the ball, move wisely without the ball. Rebounding and the physicality of the game might be his only problems, and they werent huge problems either.
Basil Smotherman: Before this practice i had Basil pegged as one of the players that will not see much time this year, i was also very wrong about that. Basil will be splitting great minutes with Peck at the 4. His scoring wasnt great but man is that kid athletic. Just SUPER athletic but very powerful too. He will see plenty of minutes and will be a great player for us sooner than later.
Errick Peck: I didnt know what to expect from Peck but after seeing him, if Jay isnt starting at the 4, then Peck will. He was much like Rapheal except maybe a little stronger and better outside shooting. He did all things really well but didnt have the ball as much as Ray. He has a nice corner 3 that worked out for him several times during practice. Really excited to watch him, caught me by surprise with his play.
Aj Hammons: AJ was great. Much more bouncy, throwing down dunks and blocking shots. Showed good effort and hustle. Was one of the bigger scoring options and produced well. This was practice and an early practice at that but with what i saw, im not convinced Hammons is leaving after this year. That is not a bad thing by any means. He was great, much more improved and consistent than last year, its just this 2014 draft class is unbelievable. Last years draft i could easily see him getting taken mid 1st round, but this year he would be a 2nd round pick. I could be wrong but i see at least 1 more year after this season with Hammons at Center for our Boilers. One thing that did shock me about AJ was how smooth he was shooting. When just putting up shots he was great, made 7 3s in a row and about 10/15 out of that sitting. Didnt shoot midrange or outside that much when practicing as a team but looked good when he did. He will be one of our best players this year, as expected.
Jay Simpson: Jay was the player that stuck out to me the most out of the entire team. I was not a hype man for Jay previously either, I always took everything said about him with great skepticism, but he showed me that he was for real. He did everything really really well. He was athletic throwing down powerful dunks and blocking shots. He showed an ability to drive and had good mid range shooting and made a very high percentage of his 3 point shots the entire practice whether he was just putting up shots or playing as a team. Painter was not wrong with saying he is one of the most talented players on our team. While practicing Jay did not show signs of fatigue, no more than anyone else on the team, but when doing sprints, he was the slowest person by far, not even making it to the end of sprints before the timer went off. The only thing keeping Jay from starting and getting the majority of minutes is his conditioning. Like i said, while playing he was great, but only on sprints could you tell he was behind.
Subs: Travis was basically in the walk on area, saw the most minutes but only when AJ or Jay needed a breather. The other subs were great as well. Neal Beshears is a really good player, a complete steal for a walk on. Neal IMO could start at some other school like Ball State or ISU. Everyone was really good. For being walk-ons, they didnt play like it. Really like this whole team.
Team: I LOVE this team. Everyone gave effort, played hard, and played well. As far as starting lineups go this is how i see it:
Locks: Ronnie, Terone, and AJ.
Kendall showed a lot of potential to take a starting role from Ray. His strength was a little behind and he may not have done the little things as well as Ray but he was just so impressive with his shooting, if he gets a starting role, it will be because of his shooting. Our trainers are working really hard with the bigs on their conditioning. Most of the time when AJ and Jay were taking a breather they were jogging on a treadmill for a couple minutes or sprinting for a little then taking a couple minute rest and then going right back into the mix. If Jay is conditioned enough by the time the season roles around he will start, but it looks like Peck is a little ahead for the 4 at this point. Jay could get there later in the season but either way he will see plenty of minutes.
Projection for beginning of the season starters:
Ronnie, Terone, Rapheal, Peck, AJ.
First off the Bench
Kendall, Jay, Bryson
Travis, Neal, Anfernee, Jon, Toyra
After watching practice i really have no idea on rotations because this team is so deep and competitive but that is just an idea.
Hope you guys enjoyed the info. If you have any questions please comment, i will answer what i can.