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Last updated: Sat. Mar. 22, 2014 - 01:20 am EDT


Davis, Scott will be catalysts in Purdue revival

Expect strong Fort Wayne impact next season

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Do Purdue's prospects of returning to NCAA tourney relevance next season rest with Fort Wayne's Rapheal Davis and Bryson Scott?

Is that putting too much pressure on Davis and Scott?

Is it true we are still perfect in the Warren Buffet Billion-dollar bracket?

Do we sometimes lie?

The answers: Maybe, No, Yes and no comment until after confession.

Anyway, Purdue is set to return five veterans and bring in five freshmen. It finished15-17 and last in the Big Ten after losing its final seven games. That's two straight losing seasons for coach Matt Painter, a three-time Big Ten coach of the year who is under heat to get the Boilers back to their winning ways ASAP.

While teams such as St. Louis, Harvard, Mercer and North Dakota State thrive in March Madness spectacle, the Boilers watch and wonder.

“Wish we were in the tourney,” tweets Scott, the ex-Northrop Bruin.

What will it take to get back there? It starts with leadership and chemistry, which means starting with Davis, the former South Side standout who emerged as a down-the-stretch game-changer.

“He speaks up,” Painter says. “He knows what's going on. With guys who care and who put in the extra time and want to win, you're going to improve and play better.”

The 6-5 sophomore swingman scored in double figures in five of his last nine games, with a high of 18 at Iowa. He had at least eight rebounds in four of his last six games, with a high of 10 against Michigan when he recorded his first career double double by adding 10 points. He finished with 42 assists and 27 turnovers.

Davis will be a cornerstone for a team that won't have any seniors.

“Ray is a guy who works hard,” Painter says. “He puts in extra time. He lays it on the line. Now he has to be productive and be consistent. I do not ever doubt his effort. That's where you have to start -- you've got to prepare; you've got to have big-time effort. He does. Now he has to be productive.

“He has a good work ethic. He's a good student. He comes from a good family. He has a lot of physical gifts. He tries to do what we ask him to do on defense and take on some of those challenges. You've got to be able to stop your guy and be a good team defender. He's done a good job with that.”

The second-biggest team question -- No. 1 is will sophomore center A.J. Hammons stay or leave for the NBA draft? -- comes at point guard. The job is wide open. Ronnie Johnson wasted no time in announcing he would transfer. That leaves Scott, a 6-1 freshman, and incoming 5-10 freshman P.J. Thompson out of Indianapolis to run the show.

While Thompson isn't the second coming of Chris Paul, he's a three-star prospect who can handle the ball, make good decisions and understands he's at Purdue to be a facilitator first. Still, to be the starting point guard against Big Ten competition as a true freshman is tough. So while Thompson is certain to play a lot, expecting him to handle everything the job requires for 30-plus minutes a game isn't realistic.

Scott, having withstood his college baptism of fire, will get the first shot. The problem -- Painter isn't sure Scott is a college point guard. Scott has said that's what he wants to be.

It's all about putting it into action.

Scott wasn't a two-time Big Ten freshman of the week winner -- the first Boiler to ever do that -- because of luck. He recorded a double double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in a loss to Nebraska. He averaged 9.8 points in non-conference play. He was second in free throw shooting on the team to Davis, 73.7 percent to 77.9 percent.

Still …

Scott struggled to adapt from No. 1 scoring option in high school -- where he basically got the ball and willed his way to points -- to college point guard. It's hard enough just going from high school to college, let alone switching to the most physically and mentally demanding of college basketball positions.

The point guard is, in a lot of ways, like a combination of quarterback and linebacker, especially in Painter's scheme. He likes to pressure the ball full-court on defense, setting a physical, grinding tone to wear out opposing guards.

Offensively the point guard has to attack when it's there, pass when it's not. He has to get the ball to the right guy at the right time. It takes fitness, athleticism, quickness, tenaciousness and vision.

At times, Scott showed he could more than handle it. At other times, especially deep into the Big Ten season, when scouting and the physical demands of a long season caught up to him, he struggled.

In his last five games, Scott had four assists and 12 turnovers. He had 11 total points on 3-for-14 shooting.

That must improve.

“Bryson has some God-given ability and competitive fire, and that makes for a unique combination that could lead to him being a successful player,” Painter says. “He has to learn to play within himself. He has to learn to understand what the defense is giving him, and what it's not.

“He wants to attack at all times. You can't attack at all times.You have to have the advantage, have to have the angle, have to have the space.

“Defensively he has the ability to be a good defender. Just carry out the assignment. Take pride in doing his job. He's so competitive and hard on himself, it comes off wrong at times. He wants to win and wants to win the competition that at times he jumps over the fight. You see that in his body language. We have to help him channel that competitive fire so he can be a productive player. He has the drive and ability and do that.”

Consecutive losing seasons have left Purdue's tradition-rich program at a crossroads. While the heat falls on Painter, the burden starts with Davis and Scott. Is that pressure? Sure, but there always is. It's what they do with it that counts.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at

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