Even though Purdue has had at least one graduate transfer on the roster for the past three seasons, it still feels odd. Just as we get to know these players we are honoring them on Senior Day and saying goodbye. Some, like Errick Peck, end up being a mere footnote in Purdue basketball history. Others go down as legends for individual performances in big games like Sterling Carter and Jon Octeus against Indiana. With only three players left to review from the past season we have this year's graduate transfer to look at.
5.1ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
When Johnny Hill agreed to come to Purdue it is because we needed an experienced point guard that could calmly lead the offense. That is sort of what we got. Within the motion offense Purdue normally generates a lot of assists, but they are spread out among the five players on the floor. We can see that in the stats. Purdue averaged a solid 18 assists per game, but no one averaged more than three individually. Hill averaged 2.3 per game and finished with 82, third on the team behind Vince Edwards and P.J. Thompson.
Hill was one of Purdue's better defenders. Even though his turnover numbers were a little high and he was part of the Achilles heel of collapsing against the press, Hill was an excellent defender in averaging one steal per game. He led the team with 35 steals in 35 games. His athleticism was also big, as he was one of the few players that could drive to the basket and score.
Unfortunately, that was not always successful. In the last two games of the season it was Hill driving to the basket with the game on the line. Against Michigan State the Spartans made a great defensive play. Against Little Rock he lost his footing against a double team and could not get the shot or pass off. In both cases I am fine with him attacking the rim. After all, it is what needed to be done and it was good to see somebody attacking. You can't fault his confidence. Still, you have to wonder why we're not looking for Hammons in a situation like that, or why he is not drawing the defense to him and making the pass.
The Little Rock final play is the most confusing. As Hill gets to the three point arc he has a good situation one on one, so he decides to attack, as he should down only one with the lane completely clear. Hammons is at the top of the key drawing his defender away from the basket. As Hill begins his drive, his man stays in front of him, but Hill takes a poor angle. At about 10 feet from the basket he makes the fatal cut where he loses his footing on a Eurostep. It is here that Hammons' man peels off toward Hill. If he is just able to keep his footing Hill can go straight up and has a great chance of scoring. Unfortunately, he loses his balances, falters into what was really a travel, and is falling away from Hammons so he can't make the pass to what would have been a thunderous game-winning dunk.
That was bad Johnny Hill. He had his limitations as a player. His jumper was pretty bad and he was virtually no threat at all to shoot the three (2 of 9 on the season). He had some good spots though. He dropped 15 on Northwestern and 10 on Michigan at Mackey Arena. His athleticism led to some highlight-worthy blocked shots and offensive rebounds. He was also an excellent free throw shooter when Purdue needed to close out games. Unfortunately, his offensive limitations sometimes had Purdue playing 3 on 5 offensively if Davis was also on the floor.
So how will we remember Hill? It is difficult to say. Inexplicably, Matt Painter pulled him off the floor at the time he was needed most. He is a player that played with a lot of confidence, but Painter rarely shared that confidence. In the end, he fit in well with Purdue and served the role we needed him to.