Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter has a label that freshman-to-be Rapheal Davis should want to hold on to.
When Painter compares Davis to one of the toughest, most physical, most unrelenting players in Purdue history, the praise and the standards don't come much higher.
“The one thing I've always compared him, from a physical standpoint, to a guy like Chris Kramer in that he'll be able to physically play in our league from Day One,” Painter said during the Purdue Coaches Caravan stop Tuesday at the Fort Wayne Country Club.
“I've seen guys who were all-league who struggled as freshmen, and he'll have some struggles, but he can compete and put the ball in the basket. Those are two things that can get him on the court.”
Painter isn't afraid to play freshmen. That's the college basketball world we live in. Freshmen play, as we were all reminded during Kentucky's national title run. Painter will return a good mix of older and younger players, but freshmen like Davis and point guard Ronnie Johnson will need to step right in.
Davis, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound shooting guard who played at South Side before finishing his prep work at La Lumiere, ranks as a little bit bigger than Kramer, but if he's half as tough it'll be a huge bonus for Purdue.
“The one thing he has to work on the most is defending away from the basketball,” Painter said. “But ... a lot of young people struggle in that department. He gives us a scorer, first and foremost. He can put that ball in the basket.”
Painter believes the chance for Davis to play with Purdue when it makes an exhibition tour in Italy will be a great chance to get a jump on his freshman season.
“Playing with his teammates, having 10 practices and playing five games in Italy will really help a guy like Rapheal,” Painter said.
Painter's reference to Kramer prompted the question about whether he thinks the Huntington native and former Mad Ants guard still has a chance at the NBA. Kramer spent last season playing in Germany and will play in the NBA summer leagues with the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks.
“He needs the right team for him,” Painter said. “I haven't been watching him play a whole lot, but from what I've gathered he's improved at the point guard position. … If he can get the right team and find the right niche, he just needs a break.
“Normally, with guys like that you make your breaks,” Painter said. “It's funny how hard work and luck sometimes collide.”
Painter also likes Kramer's former teammate Robbie Hummel's chances at an NBA career.
“I think he'll get drafted in the second round,” Painter said. “He has too much substance and he's too productive. He's proven through all the physicals and tests that his knee will hold up. I'm biased, but he has a lot of substance and I think he'll play in the NBA.”