MERRILLVILLE - There is a history of men's basketball players leaving Bridgton Academy and ultimately succeeding at high levels within the Purdue program. The names of Cuonzo Martin, David Teague and Keaton Grant quickly bring smiles to the faces of Boilermaker fans.
What remains to be seen this coming season is whether or not Donnie Hale can uphold that tradition. For if he can't, it won't be for lack of preparation.
“(Donnie's) going to turn 21 before he plays his first game,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said recently. “It's great for him.”
Hale graduated from New Albany High School in 2010 and left that storied program as one of its most productive athletes ever. The 6-foot-8 Hale could score, but what he absolutely has the proclivity to do is rebound the basketball.
He has only played a couple of exhibition games with Purdue, but in those two games he averaged a team-high seven boards.
“He brings an athlete at the four spot (power forward) that is really going to help us,” Painter said.
Hale didn't immediately venture to West Lafayette. He first trekked to the north woods of Maine, where he spent a year at Bridgton. That year of preparing for the rigors of college was then followed by a redshirt season at Purdue last year. He'll be able to legally order a Boilermaker before officially suiting up for them and Painter believes all of that time will ultimately be worth the wait.
“He got that year of prep school and had to redshirt last year,” Painter explained. “He's physically stronger (he weighs 221 pounds), he's more mature.”
At Bridgton, Hale averaged a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds per night. In one game he grabbed a season-best 19 rebounds.
Hale will join a front court group of veterans that have been spotty in their production (juniors Travis Carroll and Sandi Marcius, and sophomore Jacob Lawson).
Carroll and Lawson played in 35 and 30 games, respectively, but neither averaged more than 2.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Marcius was a surprise starter in the post-season and played fairly well. However, over the course of the season, he managed to get into just 24 games and scored less than a bucket per game.
He will also be part of a freshman class (A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson) that has immense potential – for whatever potential is worth.
“We have a lot of size on our team,” Painter said. “But it's a lot of unproven size. Who is going to step up and play and help us, especially on that back line defensively?”