FanPost

My thoughts on RJ and a lot more - very long...

There has been considerable chatter lately regarding some topics: RJ’s transfer, the number of overall transfers from Purdue, whether CMP can still coach or should be fired, what is wrong with the Purdue offense etc. etc... So, I thought I’d chime in with my thoughts and see what kind of feedback I get. First – RJ’s leaving the team. I think that there is A LOT more to this situation than is generally known by the public. There are rumors of RJ’s father shopping him to other D1 teams in the latter part of the season, CMP picking up another PG for 14-15 in PJ Thompson, and there might be some internal strife in the Johnson family with dad, RJ and TJ. I don’t know if the rumors about RJ’s dad shopping for another team are true or not, but it seems the CMP knew something was up because he went out a couple of weeks ago and picked up another PG in Thompson. On the surface, this makes absolutely no sense – we have RJ who will only be a junior and we have Bryson who will only be a sophomore – all we need to do is build up Bryson’s game some and we would have two good PG’s for the next couple of seasons at least. BUT, if CMP knew that RJ was likely to bolt at the end of the season, the Thompson pickup makes complete sense – grab a kid who looks pretty good – let him and Bryson go at it all summer and see what you’ve got by next fall. Also, CMP’s teams have played without a stellar PG in the past – using guys like Smooge and Rob to bring the ball up and get the offense started at times. All he would need a true PG for is to break a press or handle against a super lock-down defender (which don’t come along often.) I personally believe that CMP was aware of RJ’s general dissatisfaction and got wind of dad trying to sell RJ’s services elsewhere – he used Simpson’s scholly (found money in this instance) and picked up some extra insurance. This works two ways though – I think that RJ probably wasn’t 100% gone when CMP went out and offered PJ, but once PJ was offered and verballed, RJ saw the writing on the wall. There aren’t enough minutes for 3 guys at the #1 slot, and with Dakota coming on board, the chances of Bryson moving to the #2 with Kendall were slim. None of this even begins to address the speculative struggles in the Johnson family. I think that RJ was torn between loyalty to his dad and his loyalty to TJ and Purdue – which would explain some of his “mental” mistakes as the season wore on. RJ was a two year starter, and had made reasonably good strides in his game in the past 12 months – especially with respect to 3pt% and FT%, so for him to have advanced those two areas of his game and still be making the same “dumb plays” tells me that his mind was elsewhere. Second - regarding the transfers. I’ve heard arguments ranging from “Purdue’s men’s basketball program has serious structural problems” all the way down to “the number of transfers is normal in today’s game” and just about everything in between. CMP just completed his 9th season at the helm, and has had years of no transfers and years of multiple transfers. The numbers and dates were covered in another post, so I’ll skip the details here. The main hypothesis that I’m working from is this: CMP got lucky with the Baby Boilers, he found a bunch of fundamentally sound 4 star guys who had the work ethic of a bunch of 2 star guys - he basically captured lightning in a bottle so to speak. Since then, everybody has been watching old clappy-the-creepy-uncle down south pull in 4 and 5 start guys and they are screaming at CMP to “Get 4-5 star guys! Get 4-5 star guys!” and to his detriment, he listened. He has packed the roster with 4 star recruits without taking the time to see if they fit in the “Purdue system” and we have had a bunch of duds and transfers because of it. Obviously, nobody is pinning Simpson on CMP, but I am also giving him a pass 5th year guys like Choochl. 5th year guys that aren’t getting the time can easily be wooed away from any program and CMP won’t BS them by promising them more than he can offer – he’s honest, and I admire that. Also, if you look at their careers of the guys that have transferred after leaving Purdue - most, if not all, have proven that it wasn’t that “Painter couldn’t coach them up” but more often, they just weren’t that good to begin with. I partially blame this on the “star” system – from ranking a kid from the time that he’s out of diapers and the staggering lack of fundamentals being taught at all levels of the game up through and including high school. It can be seen in things like AJ not keeping the ball up high in the post to TJ’s 60ish% career FT%. I think that the Baby Boilers were the exception, not the rule. More stars don’t necessarily mean better players, and I think that CMP has finally realized this and is going to make a paradigm shift in recruiting going forward. This lines up with his statements like: “We need to recruit a different kind of player” after the BTT loss to OSU. I don’t expect to see classes full of 4-5 star guys, I expect to see fundamentally sound basketball players that are mentally tough and have a high basketball IQ. They may be 4 or 5 star guys, but I think that CMP is going to be more selective going forward and that we may see some pickups that leave us scratching our heads at times. Matt appears to be done chasing the “quick fix” – the chick that you take home from the bar – now he appears to be looking for the girl that you bring home to mom and dad. I truly believe that this will lead to drastically reduced numbers of transfers out of the program in the future and better results in the W/L column. Third – CMP can’t coach and should be fired. One man’s opinion, but, I think that Matt is an excellent coach. He has proven that he can win, and that he can recruit. He runs a spotlessly clean program, doesn’t fill kids with BS while he’s recruiting them and he provides an opportunity for these kids to get a good education while learning to be good citizens. He is willing to accept that 18-20 year olds make mistakes, but he’s also willing to toss players that are true problems (see AJ’s suspension at the beginning of the season vs Barlow getting the axe completely.) Most, if not all, of his former players have a favorable opinion of him – I don’t remember any former players bad-mouthing him and calling him names. That tells me that there is respect going both ways. And, based on my own observations, I am convinced that Matt believes that the most important part of “Student Athlete” is the “Student” part. I am proud to have him as the coach of my favorite team. Matt has almost a 70% win percentage, 6 NCAA appearances, and 2 sweet 16’s (almost 3 if Rob pulls off the miracle against Kansas) – all within 9 years, putting him in very rare air – not only in the B1G, but in the entire nation. Matt’s main problem, in my opinion, is that he tries to listen to too many other voices – from going after the wrong type of player, to sitting back during the 2007-2011 run and not getting younger players on board and developed enough. From recent statements, I believe that both of these may have been addressed. Matt’s statement of “We need to recruit a different kind of player” to his statement “I don’t want to redshirt anybody” tells me that he’s looking at things differently. To this I say, “Bravo Matt!” I too believe that we have had the “wrong type” of player in the program for the past couple of seasons – guys who don’t listen to coach, who make the same mistakes over and over again and guys who don’t play fundamentally sound ball. With only 5 (4 if AJ goes pro) returning players, 5 (if PJ actually signs) freshman players and a host of walk-on bodies to use – Matt has a chance to rebuild this team in a new image. There was a recent Exponent article that talked about this very topic, and I have great expectations from next year’s team. Provided nothing else changes, that leaves Matt 3 scholarships to go out and find some juco’s, 5th year guys (although that might make the “transfer problem” worse) or walk-ons that are deserving of a shot in the old gold and black that he can put on “the bus” to provide depth on the team. I agree it seems that right now, we’re out of control, but I think that Matt sees this too and is well aware of what needs to happen to get everything put back on the right track. BTW as a small piece of trivia to the FIRE PAINTER crowd, Matt had 1 senior and 6 newcomers to the program once before – in the 07-08 season. He not only flourished, but it began one of the most productive runs in the history of the program with a 25-9 record. He did it once, I think he can do it again. Fourth – Purdue’s offensive woes. It seems that for the past two seasons, our offensive strategy has been for Painter to stand on the sideline and scream “MOVE” while we dribble away the shot clock and then put up a terrible contested drive, or bad pass to the post. I’m not one to pile on a guy like RJ, but he has been the starting PG for the past two seasons – he is the floor general – he’s the guy that everybody is supposed to listen to on the floor. I do not have a memory full of images of him standing between the circles, directing traffic and getting everybody in the right spot to start the offense. I do have lots of images locked away of him driving the lane against 3 defenders and getting his shot blocked. I am convinced that with RJ gone, this is going to change. I think that we need, as a team, to learn about 6 things that will make this offense hum like the well-oiled machine that we’re used to seeing on the court. In no particular order they are: 1 – a FT% in the mid 70’s, 2 – learn to feed the post properly, 3 – limit turnovers, 4 – shot selection, 5 – rebound positioning, and 6 – mid range shooting. If you look at this list, these are 6 things that we used to do very well that we just don’t do well any more – and they cost us games. I can take most of the 6 points above and point to an in game situation this season that cost us a win or a shot at a win. FT% - self explanatory – if you can’t hit FT’s as a team any better than about 65% you can’t close out close games. We need this to be higher and 75% is a number that is well within reach. During the Baby Boiler’s runs, we made more FT’s than our opponents attempted, mostly because we played good D and we made our attempts when we got them. FT’s are just that: “Free” points and we can’t afford to leave them on the table. Missing FT’s cost us the first NW game – if TJ makes 1 of the 5 or so that he missed at the end of regulation, we don’t go to OT. Learning to feed to post properly – one of the big problems we have is that AJ has too many turnovers. Part of the reason he turns the ball over so much is that he has a tendency to bring the ball down and travel, but a bigger part of the problem is that we don’t feed him at the proper time and at the proper angle. AJ usually does a very good job of establishing a deep post position, but we need 4 other guys that understand how and when to pass it to him so he can be effective. One simple thing – passing the ball into the post at a 45 degree angle to the baseline (the optimal angle to feed the post) would cut the opportunities for a turnover by a huge amount. It gives AJ the chance to catch the ball cleanly and it puts him in a good position to make a move to the basket or pass back out of the post. This can be seen in the second NW game – Olah came in and poked the ball away from AJ several times on a post feed – causing a TO. These are lost opportunities for baskets since AJ usually shoots a decent % when he actually gets good position and a clean catch. Limiting turnovers – when we had the Baby Boilers, we were at or near the top of the NCAA in TO’s per game. We valued the ball and got off shots, and even if we shot a low % from the floor for a game, we got more chances. It is better to make 35% of 70 shots per game than it is to make 40% of 50 shots. Take care of the ball and good things happen, we are not a good enough shooting team to turn the ball 20+ times a game and expect to win. We would have had a chance to take the winning shot vs OSU in the BTT if we hadn’t messed up a simple dribble handoff at the top of the key. Shot selection – how many games did we shoot below 40% or have 4-5 minute stretches where we didn’t score at all? If we would look for the “extra” pass to a more open man instead of driving into the teeth of the defense and get a blocked layup our % should go up. An open shot from 15 feet is better than a contested shot from 5, but we don’t pass to the open guy often enough. As an example, I could point to about half the B1G schedule. Rebound positioning – we have a guy who is 7-0 and next season we’ll have guys at 7-0 and 7-2. There is no reason for why we shouldn’t dominate the boards. We were actually one of the better teams in the B1G at offensive rebounding this season, but we need to do a better job at boxing out and getting the board on D. As much as it kills me, Izzo is one of the best teachers at this in the nation. While this didn’t necessarily cost us any specific games – rebounding is one of the most fundamental things that a team can do and it can only be a positive if we do it well. Finally, mid-range shooting – if we only have guys that can bomb from 3 and guys that can drive the paint, we become easy to defend. We need to be able to take advantage from anywhere on the floor on the offensive end. JJ used to be able to pull his defender out to about 18 feet, Rob was the master of the pump fake from 3, drive and nail the 15 footer and Smooge was deadly with his foul line jumper. We have no mid game, Kendall, AJ and Ray showed flashes of it this season and I expect them to be better next year, but I think there are about 3 other guys that could benefit from a good 15 foot jumper – Basil, Bryson and 1 frosh could all add this shot over the summer and be very effective with it in the fall. Mid-range shooting – or the lack thereof – cost us dearly in many games this year because allowed defenses to just pack the lane and defend the interior. Obviously a 3 pointer loosens up a D, but a mid-range game is something that not many teams are used to facing anymore and it can even be confusing to defend at times. While I’d love to see all 10 guys regularly drain 15-18 footers next season, I’d be happy with 3 that can do it regularly. There you go – lots of thoughts, lots of typing. I’ll sit back and wait for the responses to come in and enjoy reading them. Respectfully, Axe

Stuff in the FanPosts is entirely at the discretion of those that post them. They do not represent the views of Hammer & Rails, SBNation, or Purdue University in any way.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Hammer and Rails

You must be a member of Hammer and Rails to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Hammer and Rails. You should read them.

Join Hammer and Rails

You must be a member of Hammer and Rails to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Hammer and Rails. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker