When discussing what Matt Painter’s Purdue Boilermakers need to do in order to rebound from a disappointing 2013-14 campaign, junior center A.J. Hammons is usually the first player brought up and rightfully so. The 7-footer is the team’s leading returning scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, and despite the fact that he was selected to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team there’s still room for growth. Hammons certainly is a key figure for Purdue, but so are a trio of sophomores whose debut seasons were essentially a case of “trial by fire.”
Guards Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott and small forward Basil Smotherman all played at least 15.7 minutes per game in 2013-14, and with leading scorers (and guards) Terone and Ronnie Johnson both having moved on the playing time will increase in 2014-15. During the team’s second intrasquad scrimmage Saturday, which consisted of four ten-minute periods, Stephens and Scott led the way offensively.
Stephens, who averaged 8.0 points per contest last season, accounted for 32 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the field and he knocked down eight of his 13 shots from beyond the arc. As for Scott, he added 20 points and six assists with just one turnover. There were other productive offensive options for the Boilermakers Saturday, including Hammons (22 points, eight rebounds), junior Rapheal Davis (24 and nine) and freshman Vince Edwards (17 and six).
Also of note are the ten assists dished out by graduate transfer Jon Octeus, who gives Purdue another option when it comes to running the offense. Yet even with other players having solid days in Purdue’s scrimmage, the progression of Scott and Stephens will be critical if the Boilermakers are to make a move up the Big Ten standings. Above are highlights from the event, courtesy of Purdue Athletics.
As evidenced by their 15-17 overall record and 5-13 mark in the Big Ten, the 2013-14 season was a tough one for Matt Painter’s Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue had issues on both ends of the floor as they finished last in the Big Ten for the first time in eight seasons, but one of the biggest problems for the Boilermakers was their ability to shoot.
Purdue finished the season shooting 42.7% from the field and 32.7% from beyond the arc, figures that ranked ninth and eighth in the Big Ten, respectively. With that in mind, not to mention the goal of putting together a better season, rising sophomores Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman have set a goal for themselves this offseason.
According to Nathan Baird of the Lafayette (Ind.) Courier & Journal, Scott and Smotherman have decided to take at least 50,000 shots apiece in hopes of improving their respective shooting percentages in 2014-15. And with the hard work comes confidence, not just from within themselves but also from teammates who see them taking the necessary steps to improve their games.
“I’ve been getting more confident, and the people that have been helping me are Bryson and Kendall,” Smotherman said after Purdue’s first summer workout. “They’re helping me get my confidence back. I always felt like when I shoot one and miss one I go away from it, but they’re like, ‘Just come back to it. Just keep shooting it. You can’t get down on yourself.’”
Purdue does have a low post scoring threat in rising junior center A.J. Hammons, who briefly considered entering the 2014 NBA Draft. But with Terone and Ronnie Johnson both having moved on, there’s a pressing need for perimeter scoring options to step up alongside Kendall Stephens. If that happens there will be other benefits for Purdue, one of which being Hammons having a little more room to operate with in the paint.
Both Scott (35.9% FG in 2013-14) and Smotherman (1-for-12 3PT) are working towards providing that relief, and it’s something that will need to happen if Matt Painter’s program is to bounce back from a disappointing 2013-14.