Tag: A.J. Hammons

Matt Painter
Associated Press

Scoring options, defense make No. 21 Purdue a Big Ten contender

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Entering the season the one question mark for No. 21 Purdue was how their perimeter play would combine with a talented front court. If this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut is any indication, the Boilermakers are deserving of the “contender” label in a competitive Big Ten.

Matt Painter’s team went on a 12-0 second half run Sunday afternoon, pulling away from Florida and winning what was at one time a competitive game by the final score of 85-70. What stood out for Purdue offensively this weekend was the many options they have, which allows for them to make up for off nights from an expected contributor.

One day after A.J. Hammons and Kendall Stephens combined to score 30 points off the bench in their 61-39 win over Old Dominion, it was P.J. Thompson who stepped forward against the Gators. Thompson scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists without a single turnover. Thompson’s play in the reserve point guard role not only made up for starter Johnny Hill’s quiet outing (two points, one assists, three turnovers), but it also helped Purdue account for Stephens going scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting.

In total five Boilermakers scored in double figures, with the Big Ten’s best defender in senior Rapheal Davis leading the way with 18 points, shooting 50 percent from the field and 11-for-26 from beyond the arc (which includes Stephens’ 0-for-6). Given the interior scoring Purdue can get from the likes of Hammons, Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan and the all-around game of sophomore forward Vince Edwards, opportunities to score from the perimeter will be there for this group.

The key is that the guards take advantage, and to this point in the season that’s happened. And when someone, in Sunday’s case both Hill and Stephens, struggles there’s another option ready to step forward. Thompson was productive off the bench against Florida, and the same can be said of fellow guard Dakota Mathias who hit two three-pointers during the second half run that essentially decided the outcome.

Of course some will point to the level of competition Purdue ran into this weekend, but keep in mind that they beat two solid teams in Connecticut. ODU will be a contender in Conference USA, and Florida should have a good year especially once the injured Alex Murphy returns to the rotation.

Part of being a contending team is proving that you can take care of the games you’re expected to win. Thus far Purdue’s done exactly that, using the combination of an offense with multiple options and a stifling defense to get the job done. When discussing who Big Ten contenders, the Boilermakers certainly deserve mentioning.

More options equals more competition for Purdue

Matt Painter
Associated Press
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On the heels of their first NCAA tournament appearance in three seasons, Purdue is preparing for a 2015-16 season in which there will be heightened expectations. Of the ten players to average 10.7 minutes or more per contest a season ago nine return, and additions such as grad student Johnny Hill and five-star freshman Caleb Swanigan are expected to have an impact as well.

With that comes increased competition for playing time, and in the Boilermakers’ preseason preparations that’s serving as additional motivation according to Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal & Courier. Veterans such as seniors Rapheal Davis and A.J. Hammons, with the former due to be team captain for a third consecutive season, aren’t resting on past accomplishments and neither are their younger teammates.

Because doing so leaves one at risk of finding themselves on the outskirts of Matt Painter’s rotation.

You’ve got to fight day in and day out,” Hammons said. “We’ve got four bigs now, so my spot can get taken at any point. Even though I’ve been here four years and have more experience, it doesn’t really matter, because I know I came in as a freshman and started.”

So did now-sophomore Isaac Haas, who temporarily outplayed Hammons last season and overtook him for starting duties. Hammons adopted the mentality Purdue coach Matt Painter said he wants from his entire roster — that temporary physical pain or mental fatigue are preferable to falling down the depth chart.

Having competition within a roster is definitely a positive, especially if all involved compete while also pushing towards the common goal of winning games. Purdue, which managed to earn a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament, took an important step forward last season and given their talent can do even more in 2015-16.

The question at this stage is just how deep Painter will go in his rotation, with there being a host of possibilities at his disposal. The goal for his players is to make the process a difficult one, by not resting on their laurels and being ready to compete every day.

Purdue center A.J. Hammons to return for senior season

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With graduate student Jon Octeus being the biggest personnel loss for Purdue at the end of the 2014-15 season, one major question remained unanswered: what would 6-foot-11 center A.J. Hammons do? A second team All-Big Ten selection in 2014-15, the junior was faced with the NBA question for a second consecutive spring.

And just as he did last year, Hammons has decided to return to West Lafayette for another season. Hammons announced the news at halftime of the football team’s spring game.

“Earning my degree is one of the most important goals that I have for myself and returning to Purdue next year will enable me to reach that,” Hammons said in a release sent out by the school. “In addition, I feel that our team has a lot of unfinished business to reach next season and I want to be a part of something special.

“Purdue is an outstanding school with great people and the chance to compete for a Big Ten Championship and more is something I want to experience again with my teammates.”

Hammons and rising sophomore Isaac Haas give Purdue a substantial amount of size in the middle, with the latter developing into a quality option as the 2014-15 season progressed. And they have a host of options on the perimeter as well, with rising sophomores Vince Edwards and Dakota Mathias being joined by veterans such as Rapheal Davis, Kendall Stephens and Basil Smotherman.

If they’re one question for Purdue heading into the summer it’s the point guard spot, and with Octeus out of eligibility the Boilermakers will be young there. P.J. Thompson will be a sophomore, and Grant Weatherford is one of two freshmen joining the program with a talented shooting guard in Ryan Cline being the other.

Purdue may not be placed on the level of Maryland and Michigan State when it comes to assessing the contenders in the Big Ten, but they aren’t to be overlooked either. Hammons’ decision to return for his senior season ensures that Matt Painter’s team will be a factor in the conference race.