Purdue will have a new look to its backcourt for the 2014-15 season as main contributors Terone Johnson graduated and Ronnie Johnson transferred to Houston.
Even with that duo in the lineup last season, the Boilermakers still struggled to knock down perimeter jumpers around imposing rising-junior center A.J. Hammons as Matt Painter’s team only shot 32 percent from three-point range last season.
Rising-sophomore wing Kendall Stephens returns, and he knocked down 64 three-pointers last season on the way to 37 percent from the field, but Purdue doesn’t have a lot of other perimeter scoring options. Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman are both working to be better perimeter scorers, but the two of them combined for five made three-pointers last season.
That makes the incoming freshman class that much more important for next season. Purdue brings in a five-man class with center Isaac Haas, forward Jacquil Taylor, wing Vince Edwards, guard Dakota Mathias and point guard P.J. Thompson, but Mathias, in particular, should really help the Boilers space the floor around Hammons.
In a recent article from Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Mathias and his leadership and shooting prowess are the main focus.
The 6-foot-4 native of Elida, Ohio won’t wow anyone with his athleticism next season, but he’s very skilled and shot 48 percent from the three-point line last season. His gym-rat mentality has also impressed his future head coach.
“It’s his craft and he’s worked many hours on it,” Painter said to Baird about his incoming freshman guard. “It’s a frustrating thing to do as a coach, to be honest with you, when you have to plead with certain guys to get in the gym and shoot. My answer to that is to recruit guys who already get in the gym. He’s a guy that always gets in the gym.”
Having gym rats like Mathias entering Purdue should help lift the work ethic of a team that struggled to a 5-13 finish in the Big Ten and 15-17 record overall. Mathias’ perimeter shooting also gives Painter another reliable wing with Kendall Stephens to help space the floor around Hammons.