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WEST LAFAYETTE – Travis Carroll believes that Purdue basketball fans will see a whole lot more of him this season, while also seeing less of him – or at least a different Travis Carroll.
The junior forward has changed his body since arriving in West Lafayette and with an increased role this coming season, he is confident that he can thrive with more responsibility.
“One of the big things that go into being an upperclassman is leading,” Carroll said. “We've got all of those freshmen (five on the 2012-13 roster), especially the freshmen “bigs,” we need to help them along.”
Purdue began conducting practice sessions this week in preparation of a 10-day exhibition tour to Italy next month. The Boilermakers will practice 10 times and hold an intrasquad scrimmage for the public on Aug. 4.
Carroll has hidden in the front court shadows for much of the past two seasons as guys like JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel rightfully had the spotlight on them. However, those guys are gone and now it will be up to Carroll and classmate Sandi Marcius to be more productive than in years past. Much more productive.
“With the size that we have, we really don't shy away from contact,” Carroll said. “I'll hit you if you're there in the post. I'm not afraid.”
Carroll averaged just 2.5 points per game and less than three rebounds in each of his 35 appearances, while Marcius produced even less. But Carroll believes both he and Marcius were more valuable than what those numbers indicate.
“The little things that we do, me and Sandi, like defending, not letting the guy get the ball,” Carroll explained, “that is something that doesn't go into the stats. Those are little things that help the team win. But obviously with stepping into a bigger role, our scoring and rebounding will have to improve.”
Carroll basically weighs the same as he did when he enrolled at Purdue. He was listed at 230 pounds as a freshman, 231 last season and 229 entering his third season. But just like the statistics didn't tell the whole story, neither does his weight. He has become far more athletic through diligence in the weight room and watching his diet, which means saying no to late-night runs to Taco Bell with other Boilermaker students.
“Oh my gosh yes,” Carroll laughed when asked if he has improved athletically. “I've tried to change my body as much as I could. I've tried to eat as healthy as I can, but it's hard being a college kid.”
Carroll said that in strength and conditioning tests he has even made strides since last season, which has boosted his confidence.
Another facet of recent Purdue history that leads Carroll to be confident in the Boilermakers is the fact that Purdue has demonstrated that it can play with the nation's best teams. Purdue battled Final Four teams Ohio State (87-84) and Kansas (63-60) very tough last season before falling late.
“We didn't win, but it showed us that we can do this,” Carroll said. “We had them right there, we just lost it in the end. But it showed us that we can do it, no matter what anybody says. I've noticed that everybody has been really motivated and working hard (this summer).”
Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter said recently that "We have a lot of size, it's just inexperienced size."
The Boilermakers will be the biggest tat the program has been in quite some time. However, just how good those big bodies are remains to be seen.
Here is a breakdown of the candidates for playing time along the Purdue front court.
* Travis Carroll (6-foot-9, 229 pounds, junior) - Carroll has been a decent role player for two seasons and has started 25 times in his career. However, no one is fearful of his meager production. He's made efforts to continually improve his strength and athleticism, which has been a weakness for him against the caliber of players that he sees in the Big Ten.
* Sandi Marcius (6-foot-9, 268 pounds, junior) - Marcius has had difficulty staying healthy and productive at Purdue. However, he made his biggest strides late last season and even earned a number of starts in the final month. During the NCAA Tournament Coach Painter praised Marcius for his play. The question remains can he continue that momentum into this season, all the while remaining healthy for two more seasons. Despite scoring just 2.1 points per game, Painter says the guy has the ability to be effective offensively.
* A.J. Hammons (7-foot, 280 pounds, freshman) - The Purdue veterans and coaches have each spoken about Hammons size. He's a big boy. However, whether he can utilize that size effectively in his initial season of major college basketball remains to be seen. He is a heralded recruit, but Painter will play the best, not the highest-rated, players. It very well could be Hammons from Day One.
* Jacob Lawson (6-foot-8, 217 pounds, sophomore) - Endured growing pains through 30 appearances as a true freshman. Is athletic and can block shots. A prime example of a highly-rated recruit that learned that college basketball is far more challenging than high school or AAU is. Needs to take next step in his development and show signs of becoming a solid player for Purdue.
* Donnie Hale (6-foot-8, 230 pounds, redshirt freshman) - Coach Painter recently lauded Hale for his work in the weight room over this summer. Graduated from high school in 2010 and spent a year at prep school and a year simply practicing at Purdue. Has shown flashes in practice of being a good rebounding 4-man. Is athletic and will challenge for a lot of time at that spot this season.
* Jay Simpson (6-foot-9, 268 pounds, freshman) - Battling through an injury this season, but was shooting around earlier this week and should be fine for the regular season.Highly-rated recruit that could get minutes due to lack of talent in front of him or could struggle at times as Lawson did.