Walk-ons in college basketball rarely make big contributions, but when they do, they become fan favorites. Mark Titus may be the most famous walk-on in history, but Purdue fans remember the likes of Bobby Riddell, Mark Wohlford, and Dru Anthrop as players that were able to make the regular rotation despite their lack of a scholarship.
Given the dearth of scholarship players next season plus the fact that Purdue has four walk-ons, we might see the emergence of another unexpected contributor. Here is how 2013-14 went for the four players who are paying their own way.
Neal Beshears - F - For all I know, Beshears might be on scholarship. He is Purdue's longest-tenured walk-on and for each of the past two seasons there has been an open scholarship available. Since that money would otherwise go to waste I have no problem rewarding Beshears by paying for his education.
Unfortunately, Beshears is the lone player on the roster that did not score a single point this season. He had six points as a freshman two years ago and hit a three-pointer last year, but in six games this season he missed his only field goal attempt and had two rebounds.
What makes Beshears significant going into 2014-15 is that he will be the lone senior on the roster. He has played only 62 minutes and scored nine points in his career, but no one has been around the program longer. Hopefully he can make some kind of impact in practice in terms of leadership and guidance for the five incoming freshmen. Maybe he makes a larger contribution as a 6'7" 200 pound forward that is reportedly a good three-point shooter, but right now he is way off the radar.
Stephen Toyra - G - If there is going to be walk-on that plays larger role in 2014-15 my money is on Toyra. Of the four walk-ons he was the only one that played any non-garbage time minutes the past two seasons. When coach Painter was frustrated with his team's performance at Penn State in 2012-13 at Penn State Toyra entered and played seven minutes in the first half, adding two rebounds in an eventual 58-49 win. This past season Toyra saw action in eight games, including the 75-66 loss at Michigan where he scored four point in six minutes and once again played in the first half. He played another five minutes at Penn State in the next game and added five minutes at Nebraska.
All told, Toyra had 12 points in eight games this season, going 4 of 12 from the field and a spotless 4 of 4 at the free throw line. Toyra is a candidate to play more minutes because he is a very smart player that plays well within his abilities. His two baskets at Michigan were the result of him moving without the basketball and getting in the right position for an easy layup. That is something he needs to teach to pretty much the rest of the roster that refuses to move in the clogged toilet offense.
Coach Painter has not been afraid to go to Toyra as a motivation ploy before and he has contributed. As a junior, he could be in line for at least a handful of non garbage time minutes.
Jon McKeeman - G - In 2012-13 McKeeman was the answer to the question "who is No. 2 warming up with everyone else?" He had a single minute of action that year, but this past season he had 10 minutes in five games and scored five points. He was 1 of 2 from three and 2 of 5 from the field overall.
Almost all of his significant playing time came in the 109-73 win over Central Connecticut State, where he was 2 of 4 with five points.
McKeeman is a junior-to-be and is majoring in chemistry, so with a tough major like that there is even a question as if he will even return to the program. Even if he does return I think I would be shocked if he played more than mop-up minutes.
Anfernee Brown - G - Brown was the lone new walk-on this past season and he played the fewest minutes of anyone on the team. He had only nine minutes in five games and was just 1 of 4 from the field for two points. His only basket came against Boston College and he also added two assists in his very limited time.
Brown averaged 15 points per game at East Chicago HS and was a high school teammate of Hyron Edwards, whom Purdue has long been recruiting. He also averaged six assists per game, so if Purdue needs an emergency option at point guard Brown could be it.