This has been a nightmare of a year for Purdue sports. Last in the conference in both major programs, no post season for either as well, and salt in the wound with AJ rumors and RJ transferring. Here's my 2 cents on things, with most of the focus on basketball. Respond if you'd like, I'll try to get back to anyone who wants to chat about anything.
On the fans: First and foremost, I want to comment on our behavior as fans. Frankly, some of us have been loyal and stood by each program. Others of us have been vocal on coach/player criticisms, shortcomings, called for heads, etc. All of that is fine. But if there's a single reader of this post who decided to message Ronnie or Terone or any other Purdue athlete on Twitter/facebook and the like, you should seriously consider taking a step back and reflecting on what's right and wrong. It is absolutely wonderful when fans cheer someone on the field/court, or show public support on forums and whatnot. But when you message someone's personal account without knowing them, you're crossing a serious line, even if you're trying to show support. We have every right as fans to be vocal about our players and coaches, but when it becomes personal, it's time to give it a rest.
Purdue fans have taken some flak in the past...maybe I didn't see it when I was at Purdue and thought it was funny when the fans shouted "first down bitch!" in football. Maybe I didn't see it when I agreed happily with fans who said "good riddance" to guys like Anthony Johnson and Scott Martin from our basketball program. Then I stop for a minute, take a step back, and hear comments from former boilers like Kramer. Respecting player decisions and supporting the coach/program. What a classy guy. We like to associate a certain level of class with Purdue. We knock Crean for how he gets rid of players...hell we even have a verb for it (Creaning, for those who didn't know). We knock players like Sheehey for his faked elbow to the face and taunts during games that he consistently gets away with. We knock Notre Dame fans for their arrogance. Well, if we want to be a respected program, we need to respect our teams' coaches, players, and each other. Now let's act like it. While I'm at it, do yourselves a favor and treat each other with respect as well on our message boards. The RJ transferring thread was simply brutal to read.
On Burke: It's a mixed bag. I really hate everything about how he handles Purdue sports. Then again, not many schools can survive without using tuition on sports, and I do respect that tradition. My biggest issues with Burke is his reluctance to pull the rug from coaches, or give them what they need to succeed. I respected Tiller back in the day, but he lasted too long, and had too much input on his predecessor. I never liked Hope, and thought he stayed too long as well. Frankly, Painter better be on the hot seat after this season. Don't get me wrong, I supported these guys as long as I could, and I absolutely support our programs, but when results aren't had, you at least have to open the discussion. I will say that Burke did do well to respark Purdue basketball. New facilities, new resources for Painter, and he kept him as a coach when he was on the market, but I think Burke has been around through too many rough patches of Purdue sports to deserve to keep his job. I don't really want Burke to be fired...it reflects poorly on us. I do wish he would step down though.
On to basketball...
On Transfers: This needs to be addressed. We have had a ton of guys go over the past several years. What is it...7 or 8 guys? Hart, Martin, Barlow, RJ, AJ, Hale, Marcius, and Lawson. Now in all seriousness, there are many reasons why these guys left. More playing time for Marcius. Discipline for Barlow. Family for Hale. All legitimate. As Purdue fans who have sat through every one of them, we know the story behind each one, and that might make it feel better for us, but it's still a problem. Coaches (whether AAU or university head/assistant/etc) and trainers and fans alike can get in the ears of recruits and tell them how poor our retention rate is. How Painter can't keep his team together. Legitimate reasons or not, that's the reality of it, and it's on Painter to be able to hold on to guys and give them what they want/need to succeed. Being a good coach isn't all about winning. It's what we want as fans, but at the end of the day, I'd like to believe that the athletes that leave our school got their education and got the best chance possible to succeed in whatever future they'd like. I know that Painter has a system and wants players to fit in to that system, and its understandable when it doesn't work out for everyone. But this HAS to improve.
On Ronnie: Whatever Ronnie's reasons are I'll try to respect them. He's talented, and I hope he succeeds where he goes. I just hope he did the right thing for himself in the long run. He very clearly fell apart at the end of the season. In his last 6 games he had something like 22 assists to go with 28 turnovers (I actually had them up on ESPN earlier, but ESPN has since removed his stats?) Despite that, he still averaged a 1.7 A:T ratio on the season. I do wonder if he'd made his decision around the time his stats were slipping. Still, good luck to him. He made bone headed plays sometimes, but he improved from last year in MANY categories, and I looked forward to seeing him progress his Jr and Sr years. We will definitely feel some impacts from this. Terone, for his part, had quite a few assists last season. (2.4/game, behind only Ronnie). Bryson will have to learn really quickly how to pass the rock. I do not know a lot about Thompson, but I think it's absurd to expect an unrated, undersized, point guard to come in go from being his HS team's leading scorer to a leader in running a college offense. I hope he and Bryson prove me wrong, but I do expect the point guard position to be very weak.
On Painter: Not a lot to say here. I expect to struggle next year without a bunch of returning scholarship players and no experienced point guard. My frustration is increasing with him. Even if it is the players who are at fault, he recruited those players. He's got a lot of work to do this off season. After losing Ronnie, next season will be a tough one, and I expect that we might be a 12-14 win team again. If we don't go dancing the year after though, it is time for him to go.
On AJ and everyone else: I think everyone else on the team stays put. Painter said he got PJ in hopes to get Hammons the ball more. AJ will have a big body to practice against next year in Haas. His scouting report doesn't exactly scream superstar either. He needs one more year, and I think he's a smart enough guy to realize it. All signs (to me) point towards him staying.
From Hammons next year I'd like to see him keep the ball up more (resulting in fewer TOs), develop a consistent shot to 12-14 feet, and average 13-14 points, 50% FG%, 8-10 boards, and 3-3.5 blocks per game. Also 75-80% in FT%. Nothing major, just small improvements across the board. Show the NBA you're still improving.
From Davis, I'd really like him to up his game. He may very well be our 2nd leading scorer next year. Kid's put in his time on the bench, and at the end of the season, he showed how hard work can pay off. I'd love to see him develop a 3, and take 2 or 3 treys a game, and hit something like 35-38% of them. He's great at FTs, so I never want him to settle for the 3 though. He's also going to have to be a vocal leader for this team though. I think his comment at the end of the season about working hard was the first time I'd ever heard him speak. He and Hammons are both too quiet for their own good sometimes.
Bryson needs to learn to play the point better, and not take ill advised shots. If PJ isn't ready to play next year, Bryson will play a LOT of minutes. He needs to learn to pass better and develop a good jumper. I have total faith in his heart, but much less in his head. Play smart Bryson, and include your team mates.
Smotherman needs to develop a shot. The kid plays smart, and he's a coach's son. He had a game this season where he played 38 minutes and didn't attempt a shot, so his other skill sets are well developed enough to start. Still, he's a liability on offense, and needs to be able to contribute more than just garbage points off rebounds. He's got every bit of potential to be a matchup nightmare, he just needs to execute. I expect good things, but nothing spectacular.
Stephens really showed a TON of potential at the end of the season. Learning to step in or even drive off a faked 3 really showed his development. I think he could lead the team in scoring next year. I think he could also regress without someone to distribute the ball to him and as defenses focus in on him. I'm cautiously optimistic, but I hope he can average 40% from 3 next year and not be a liability on defense.
On incoming recruits: First and foremost, we HAVE to temper expectations. What good is being 7'2 if you can't stay out of foul trouble or keep up with the pace of the game? What good is Mathias's supposed great passing and 3 point shooting ability if he can't hold his own on defense? Getting Edwards was a huge moral victory, but can he develop a consistent outside shot (not necessarily from 3, but just out to 16-18 feet) to keep defenses from packing the lane?
Personally, the player I'm most excited about is Mathias. We need the scoring, and he seems hungry to involve his team mates in his game. Still, I've not read a thing about his defense, so he could be a complete liability. It never hurts to have a guy who can hit shots OR distribute on the floor though.
Haas I imagine will play double digit minutes a game next year for Purdue, but will struggle with foul trouble all season. He seems less developed than Hammons at this point in his career based on what I've read, but I do know one thing...kid seems hungry, and I like that. I hope he and Bryson can become the vocal leaders that this team has lacked in recent history.
I hope I'm wrong about PJ and Jacquil, but my biggest fear is that they just aren't ready for big 10 play. These guys are basically overlooked by most recruiting sites, and Painter has commented on finding diamonds in the rough before that haven't panned out so great. If I'm right, that puts us down to only a few bench players who are worth their salt. Still, if Jacquil can play smart, he could fulfill Smotherman's role this past year, getting garbage buckets and being a good defender. All I ask of PJ is to truly be a pass first point guard for 15 minutes a game. To hell with scoring, get AJ and Stephens the ball and let them do their thing.
Finally...Edwards. I truly have no idea what his role will be next year. Reports make him sound like a bigger version of RayD more known for driving than shooting, but I could be way off the mark. Still, there are room on most rosters for a 6'7 athlete who is a top 100 player.
Thats my 2 cents on things.