JaJuan Johnson should feel disrespected.
Yeah, I said it. He should feel disrespected. All these talking heads are blown away by Jared "The Hip" Sullinger. He's a quality basketball player, but because he's a freshman, he's a mind-blowing basketball player. If I'm JaJuan, though, I'm thinking that I have proven myself time and time again. I've taken this team on my back, and along with my partner in crime (Mr. E'twaun "Smooge" Moore), I'm in the top-performing All-American combo in the country. What's this Sullinger kid done? He's played a cushy non-conference schedule and the front third of a Big 10 schedule that has given two tests, one at home against Minnesota and one on the road at Illinois. Sure, he's putting up big numbers with quality box scores, but he hasn't proven anything.
"He's probably the best in college basketball right now at understanding his surroundings and making the right decision when he gets the ball in the post," Purdue coach Matt Painter said Monday of the 6-foot-9 Sullinger. "Whether that's to attack or pass or dribble out of a double (team). No matter what the situation might be, he just has a lot of poise."
That in and of itself should awaken the sleeping giant.
This game isn't just personal for the JJ, or even the rest of the team. To a lot of fans, Ohio State is Enemy #2, right behind Indiana. There's just something about the Bucknuts that Purdue fans - and let's face it, the rest of the Big10 - love to hate.
My mother went to Ohio State, her brother went to Ohio State, and all their friends went to Ohio State. My father (and now my brother) went to Indiana. I grew up wearing either "crimson and cream" or "scarlet and gray." Basically, I wore a helluvva lot of red as a kid. However, halfway through my first semester at Purdue, I had an epiphany, a revelation. For those first seven weeks, I had considered everyone around me "the enemy." However, one day walking to class, I realized I was the enemy, and I basked in my villianism. Since then, I have butted heads with the family over sporting events, both epic victories (last year's win over OSU in Ross Ade) and utter defeats.
Tonight is about making a number of statements. A win at Ohio State solidifies our team as a legitimate title contender not only in the Big10, but on the National scene as well. JaJuan Johnson is the Player of the Year and the best center in the league. Purdue's basketball team not only has the tenacious defense to stand up to a top team, but has the offensive weapons most analysts accuse us of being without. The insults stop with a win tonight.
This game is personal.