He is only the key to Purdue having a great season in 2013-14, but was shockingly not named as one of the top 100 players in college basketball by either CBS or SB Nation.
A.J. Hammons - So.
Carmel, IN (Oak Hill Academy)
7', 251 pounds
2013-14 Projection: First Team All-Big Ten
The sky is the limit for Hammons. He has all the physical tools to not only dominate the Big Ten, but be a top 5 pick in the NBA Draft whenever he chooses to jump into the league. You cannot teach 7' 251, and he is an old school, back to the basket center that doesn't think he needs to be a three-point shooter or anything. He does the Purdue-like, "I am bigger and stronger than you. Stop me" approach to basketball that we love. He showed just how good he could be last year in the ugly Indiana game in West Lafayette when he owned Cody Zeller, who was the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft.
That night he dropped a 30-5-5 on Zeller and exposed him for the soft, lacking of heart player he will soon prove to be in the NBA. The unfortunate thing is that the rest of Purdue did not show up that night, but Hammons played with an edge that we need to see from him to have success. He pushed Zeller around and was better than a guy that was picked fourth overall in this year's draft.
Unfortunately, we don't know if that is what we will get every night. We know he can be dominant, but his freshman season was greatly inconsistent. He had only three points and five rebounds in the season finale against Santa Clara, who hardly had a player of Zeller's caliber. I have referred to the give-a-shit before in regards to Kelsey Barlow, but Hammons is a player that definitely needs the give-a-shit turned one to dominate.
That may end up being the biggest contribution that Travis Carroll has in his entire Purdue career. Carroll is pushing Hammons, who saw his minutes go to Sandi Marcius late last year, all over the practice floor and making him be a better player. Carroll gets it. He knows he is not in the same league as Hammons, but if he can push him every day in practice he will make Hammons a better player.
So that is where we are with A.J. I don't want him to leave after this year, but if he does it likely means that Purdue has had a much better season than last year. Purdue's success is almost directly tied to his draft stock. He has better shooters around him, thus freeing him offensively, and on defense he needs to be nasty on the boards and at protecting the rim. If Hammons has a season good enough to go to the NBA early (and he has all the ability to) it means that he lead Purdue to nearly a Big Ten title and a deep run in March.