For the final time on Sunday four players will take the court at Mackey Arena. Three have been here for four years and have helped rebuild the program after a two year dip, helping to re-establish Purdue as a perennial NCAA Tournament team. A fourth has been here just one season, but has won our hearts with his hustle and intensity that Gene Keady would be proud of. It is time to say goodbye to them, even though their final stories will be written on neutral courts in Indianapolis and the NCAA Tournament.
Stephen Toyra - The townie has been through an interesting career. Last season he was on scholarship as Purdue had the open spot. This season he has barely played as he has returned to a mostly walk-on role. He has had a few sporadic appearances in his career in the first half, mostly in 2013-14 when coach Painter was looking for a spark of any sort. This season he has six points in nine games. For his career he is up to a robust 22 points, 12 of which have come from the foul line as he is the savvy walk-on that somehow manages to get the ball and get fouled no matter how little he plays.
Stephen already has a very bright future ahead. He has a burgeoning real estate business as he is already a licensed broker. He also got engaged after the Vanderbilt game this season on the court at Mackey Arena. This is a kid going places, and I am glad that the Lafayette native from Faith Christian has been here for four years. I just hope he gets one more chance to erase his dismal 0 for 7 career three-point percentage. Come on, Stephen! The crowd LIVES for the walk-on three-pointer!
Johnny Hill - It still seems odd to have a senior tribute for players that are only here a single season, but for the third straight season a one-year graduate transfer will leave Purdue after making a lasting impact in his only chance. After stops at Illinois State and Texas-Arlington he ended up at Purdue this season where he split point guard duties with P.J. Thompson. He has averaged 5.3 points and only 2.2 assists, but it is his leadership and defense that have been important. He has also been steady at closing games out by going 81.5% from the free throw line.
Hill's athleticism has been needed and many times it makes a big difference. He has been an excellent rebounder on the offensive glass and he leads the team in steals with 31. I am grateful that he decided to come help up out this season and look forward to him finally playing in an NCAA Tournament.
Rapheal Davis - Oh Captain, my Captain. It seems bizarre to be here at the end for Ray D. After all, he committed to Purdue as a sophomore in high school and has been on our radar in some way, shape, or form for seven years now. Let's put that into perspective: Hammer & rails was just starting around the time Ray D. officially committed to Purdue. What will we do without Ray next season? He is such a calm, steadying presence and a true leader. Many believe that he has been playing through injury this year, but he helped return Purdue to its culture after a few down years where players without the right attitude were running the show. Ray always had that unspoken Boilermaker attitude.
This season has been slightly disappointing for Ray. His scoring is down to 8.7 points per game and he has long stretches where he is not a threat at all offensively. Then we see games like Michigan State where he just goes off for 20+. Ray needs 23 points to become the 49th player in Purdue history to score 1,000 career points. When he does so it will be the first time Purdue teammates have played with 1,000 career points each since JJ and E'Twaun in 2011. His final chapter is still being written, as Purdue will go as far as he can take us in March. I am still damn glad he chose to be a Boilermaker.
A.J. Hammons - A.J. will leave Purdue as one of its most decorated players ever and could very well have his number in the rafters next season. He is an All-America candidate, possible award-winner as the nation's best center, a sure-fire First Team all-Big Ten selection, and this summer will most likely be drafted into the NBA. He currently has 1,513 career points, good for 21st all-time with Russell Cross, brad Miller, and Melvin McCants easily within striking distance depending on how many games Purdue has left (as few as three and as many as 11). He needs 19 more blocked shots to break the school record for blocks shots in a career that has stood for over 35 years. He is one of only seven Purdue players to score more than 1,500 points and get 750 rebounds (the last being Robbie Hummel), and he will be just the 9th Purdue player to average more than 10 points per game in all four years. Even his passing is better, as with five more assists he will reach 100 assists for his career. Finally, he will be the 8th player in Purdue history to score at least 300 points in all four seasons on campus.
As we have seen this year, when A.J. is dialed in no one in America can stop him. It has been an absolute blast to watch him go all Destroyer of Worlds on teams. If he can avoid foul trouble he will have a chance to do it on a national stage too, as the NCAA Tournament is calling. A deep run allows him to cement Legend status in West Lafayette. As it is, thank you, A.J. for being our big man.