In a first-of-its-kind event, Purdue held an alumni game for over 20 visiting men’s basketball alumni, plus an intrasquad scrimmage as the 2012-2013 team prepares for its upcoming trip to Italy. Saturday was a great opportunity for fans, recruits, and players to enjoy Purdue basketball a little early in August.
Yours truly was one of the 6,365 in attendance. I enjoyed watching the blasts from the pasts, but honestly, I was most excited about watching this year’s team. [In case you're interested, here's a nice rundown of the alumni game].
Overall, this season’s Boilers are young but talented. With just 11 scholarship players, Purdue has an imbalance of 6 front court players and 5 back court players (counting DJ Byrd as a guard). That will force Painter to experiment with lineups and possibly adjust his pressure defense to account for the low numbers. Purdue’s strengths this year should be getting to the basket because all three Johnsons have a quick first step to get to the rim. Their weaknesses include outside shooting, free throw shooting, and a lack of proven defenders. With Purdue’s shooting troubles, I would expect opposing defenses to show a lot of zone this upcoming year.
Format: three 10 minute periods. After each period, the teams shuffled players. Fouls were called…sort of. Matt Painter watched on the opposite sideline while the assistant coaches ran each team.
Team stats (according to PurdueSports.com):
FG: 42-101 (.416)
3FG: 8-30 (.267) *BARF
FT: 7-23 (.304) *YES, I KNOW…
REB: 55 (15 off./40 def.)
Below are my notes of individual players in the intrasquad game (note — Jay Simpson was held out as he recovers from his foot injury):
- DJ Byrd: Along with Terone Johnson, he’s a leader on this team. Offensively, he’s most valuable as an outside shooter, which is Purdue’s biggest need this year, but don’t count out his ability to crash the boards and create second chance opportunities. After three years in the system, he understands what he needs to do in Purdue’s offense and how to move without the ball to get open shots. I would expect either DJ or Terone to be the leading scorer of this team, but Byrd’s value goes way beyond that. He’s smart, plays hard at all times, and will play multiple positions this year. He missed shots early, but showed his sharp shooting late when he nailed a couple of threes in the third period. Stats: 17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists.
- Terone Johnson: Johnson played as both a point guard and off guard. As usual, he got to the basket very easily. He’s coming off an injury, but looked pretty good. He didn’t hit any outside shots that I recall, but his body language is confident and it really seems like this is his team (maybe it helps to have his younger brother as a freshman). Defensively, he’ll often be tasked with guarding the other teams’ best player. He looked good today, although it would have been nice to see him get his outside shot going. Stats: 11 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists.
- Ronnie Johnson: wow. Ronnie was incredible today. His team won all three of its games and he was a big reason why. His ability to penetrate, draw defenders, and find open guys are why he will start from the get go. I’m not sure about his defense yet, but his vision is outstanding and he pushes the ball. His decision making seems very good, although it’s inevitable that he’ll make freshman mistakes. He’s extremely fun to watch — no look passes, blowing past defenders, and he has the chance to be a respectable three point shooter. He only finished with four assists, but it seemed like more and this included some jaw dropping no look passes. Stats: 13 points, 1 rebound, 4 assists.
- Sandi Marcius: the light may have finally come on for the redshirt junior. He was extremely active on defense and used his physically superior body to nab 9 rebounds. Ronnie found him for some easy dunks and he ran the court pretty well too. At this early point, Marcius may earn a starting spot. His touch around the basket is still something he needs to work on, but he was very impressive on Saturday. Stats: 11 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block.
- Anthony Johnson: like Terone, he picked up right where he left off last year. He ran the point some and guarded the opposing point at times. He got to the basket and knocked down a three. If he’s not a top three scorer this year, I’ll be surprised. Defensively, he’s probably more on a Ryne Smith level, but as long as he is keeping good position, he should be okay. If his three point shot comes along, watch out. Stats: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists.
- Jacob Lawson: Lawson played with a lot of energy throughout the day. He’s limited offensively, but he makes some amazing plays with his athleticism. His stats don’t include his blocks, but he at least affected a lot of shots on closeouts or weak side help. His play jumped out at me during the first period, but admittedly, I noticed him less in the second and third period. The big story is that he was the leading rebounder on Saturday. Stats: 6 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist.
- AJ Hammons: along with Ronnie, many were chattering about the instant impact AJ will have. I can’t lie — AJ is one of Purdue’s most intriguing players in a long time. At 7′ tall, he clogs the lane and blocks shots (5 on Saturday). He showed skill that I had never seen from him during the scrimmage. He even knocked down a three during the end of the first period. His shot looks fairly good, but his value is all about rebounding, contesting shots, and making the defense pay attention to the big man in the middle. Even if he’s not starting this year, I expect him to get major minutes and be an impact player. Stats: 11 points, 2 rebounds, 5 blocks.
- Rapheal Davis: The first thing that I noticed was that Davis picked up the opposing point guard, which was not a role I expected of him. He looked good on defense. He started out strong and showed why he was such a proficient scorer at the prep level. He’s so good at scoring around the rim and finishing plays in transition. He’s smart and will put in the work, so even if he comes along slowly, I have a lot of confidence that he will be a major player for us eventually. Offensively, he’s an attacker first and has to be patient with outside shot selection. Stats: 8 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist.
- Donnie Hale: Even though Hale didn’t jump out as much as Lawson, he held his own. He looked stronger from last year and rebounded the ball very well (9 boards). He hit one face up jumper, but that’s something he may take only occasionally. He’s not the next Robbie Hummel, but he can be a really good player for Purdue if he plays physical inside and creates opportunities for himself in both the transition game and halfcourt offense. If he’s not starting, I still expect him to be in the rotation. Stats: 5 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist.
- Travis Carroll: Carroll was matched up against Marcius and Hammons for much of the day, but occasionally was forced to guard Byrd and Beshears here and there. Reports are that he dropped some weight to be more agile, but I was moreso looking forward to his ability to rebound and defend the paint. He did nab five boards, although I think Sandi was able to push him around quite a bit. He had just two points, which doesn’t surprise me because in settings that have less structure, he doesn’t get down the court for easy transition baskets like others. I don’t want to be too much of a negative nancy, but I think he has to work his tail off or he’s going to find himself out of the normal 8 or 9 person rotation. Stats: 2 points, 5 rebounds.
- Dru Anthrop, Neal Beshears, Stephen Toyra (all walk-on players, although Anthrop and Beshears should get one year scholarships this year): Don’t be surprised if Anthrop gets some playing time. He makes great decisions, plays good defense, and can knock down the occasional jumper. Stats: 7 points, 1 rebounds, 2 assists. Neal Beshears looks like a division one scholarship player at about 6-7 and a good skill level. Because of Purdue’s guard deficiency, he finds himself guarding perimeter players while he himself is more of a tweener guard/forward. If nothing else, he’s a valuable practice player: 6 rebounds, 1 assist. Stephen Toyra is a local guy who looks like a freshman because he’s not very developed physically yet. He wasn’t much of a factor Saturday, but I’m sure he’ll improve as he adjusts from small high school basketball to the Big Ten level.