A.J. Hammons has been called a lot of things during his career at Purdue: lazy, disinterested, frustrating, lethargic, talented but...., etc. Ater today, you can call A.J. a Second Team All Big10 performer (only missing out on the first team because of Big10 POTY Frank Kaminsky) and a member of the First Team All Big10 defensive team. A.J. has been a beast this year. Whatever light needed to go on for A.J., not only turned on, but turned into a spotlight. A.J. has gone from a, once every 3 games performer, to a consistent, and often times dominating presence for the Boilermakers. Hammons can do things that other 7 footers of his size simply can not physically accomplish. He moves his feet well, blocks shots with both hands, and has a soft touch that he can occasionally extend to the outside. Hammons talent has never been questioned, but his heart, well, people have been questioning his heart since he arrived on campus. He answered those questions in a big way this season. His sprint down the sideline against Illinois to save a ball heading out of bounds really epitomized his transformation. The often times dour Hammons is now smiling and high fiving on the court. His dunk and subsequent man scream against the diminutive Hoosiers may have hurt Hoosier feelings so bad that he drew a technical foul, but there was no doubt that A.J. was asserting his position as the dominate force on the court. It was his court, and he was just allowing the Hoosiers to play on it. That's a pretty big statement to make in Assembly Hall.
What's funny is that statistically speaking, A.J. is slightly off his pace from last year in rebounds and blocks, and minutes, and is only a little better in points scored, but anyone who actually watches basketball can see that he is a much improved player. The other team knows that Hammons is waiting inside, ready to lustily dispatch of any shot going towards the basket. When he gets the ball in the post, he is making better decisions, and while he will still have the occasional footwork glitch, he is no longer committing the same offensive foul over and over again. Everything about his game just looks better, and that's what happens when you put the work on in practice. Amazing, all this coming from a "lazy" and "disinterested" player.
Congratulations A.J., you put in the work and you silenced the critics, now let's make a run in the postseason and shut everyone up. Also, dare I say it, ONE MORE YEAR!