For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis via Twitter at Tom101010.
You have to scan a long way down the Purdue men’s basketball statistics before reaching a returning front court player’s name.
There’s Hummel (graduated), Jackson (nope, he’s a guard and he’s gone), Smith (ditto), Byrd (he’s back, but he’s a guard), wait, there is a Johnson and Johnson (no, neither qualifies). Well, you get the picture.
Boilermaker fans will have to run their finger all the way down to the eighth leading scorer and fifth leading rebounder before they get to junior forward Travis Carroll.
“Last year we didn’t have anybody on the interior that was consistent enough for us to throw the ball to,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
That could prove to be a problem again this season.
Carroll is the most experienced, big veteran, but he averaged less than three points per game as a sophomore. He’ll be joined by junior Sandi Marcius and sophomore Jacob Lawson, who combined didn’t average four points per game.
“We have a lot of size,” Painter said. “(But) We have a lot of inexperienced size and unproven size. Whether it is from a returning player or newcomer, just trying to get some consistency there would be great.”
Carroll and Marcius are both 6-foot-9, while Lawson is an inch shorter. Each has earned praise from Painter for their development this off-season.
“Jacob is a talented kid,” Painter said. “Travis has gotten in shape. He’s got his body better.”
In 24 games last season, Marcius either didn’t play at all or played single digit minutes. However, he showed Painter enough progress in practice that the coach felt comfortable playing him 16 minutes in each of the Boilermakers’ two NCAA Tournament games, including starting him against ultimate national runner-up Kansas.
“Sandi can rebound the basketball,” Painter said. “He can (also) score the basketball. He’s just got to get in the gym and keep working and get some repetitions. He needs to be consistent on a daily basis.”
But on the other hand, Painter has also brought in several newcomers in Donnie Hale (6-8), Jay Simpson (6-9) and 7-foot A.J. Hammons to push the older players.
“We have a big freshman class in that mix,” Painter said. “All of our young guys will have a chance to play. I don’t think that there is a freshman on our team that doesn’t have a legitimate chance of either starting or playing major minutes.”
In the case of the newcomers, they won’t have to wait until October to begin to challenge for playing time. It may have already been determined by then.
The Boilermakers will begin practicing on July 16 in preparation for a 10-day trip to Italy in August. Painter believes that trip will play a significant role in determining playing time in January.
“The experienced guys should have an advantage,” Painter said. “But if we come out of that trip and they’ve lost that advantage, it’ll be an uphill battle. We’ve had some young guys here be able to play right away. It’s hard when a young guy gets those minutes to get them back from them. It’s not impossible, but it is very difficult.”