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.