Boilermaker fans can pretty much figure out which players will be on the floor for most of the games this season. However, there is one position that is going to be an intriguing battle from the time that you are reading this article until the first tip-off.
Painter was pretty clear that he expects a lot of competition among the six players competing for front court minutes. What that rotation will be is still a mystery, but the positive is that Painter feels comfortable with their ability to produce.
“In 20 years of coaching I've never been in this position,” Painter said. “We have a lot of size.”
The seventh-year coach was also explicit in who will be the running the offense. Freshman point guard Ronnie Johnson played above his experience and Painter could not have been more pleased with him.
“I thought that he did a very good job for us,” Painter said. “Ronnie definitely established himself as the guy that is going to play the point for us. Nobody remotely came close to delivering the basketball, making decisions, and having the assist-to-turnover ratio that he had.”
There is little doubt that senior D.J. Byrd won't be able to repeat as the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Award winner and that is because the Boilers' leading returning scorer will be in the starting lineup this season. So that leaves one spot to be filed – that of shooting guard.
After starting 18 times during his first two seasons in West Lafayette, one would believe that junior guard Terone Johnson would be the odds-on favorite to win that position. However, that may have gone by the way side after the Purdue coaching staff watched freshman Rapheal Davis lead his team in scoring (14 points per game) during the four-game trip.
“Rapheal did a good job of scoring the basketball and rebounding the basketball,” Painter said. “He got a couple of real aggressive offensive rebounds and we need to get that from our guards.”
Davis brings a bigger presence (he's 6-foot-5 as opposed to the 6-foot-2 Johnson), but despite the surprisingly strong start to his career, Painter said that Davis still has aspects to improve on.
“He's got to keep working on taking care of the basketball and playing to his strengths,” Painter said. “Rapheal needs to take opportunities, especially in the open court, and make good decisions and be aggressive, but also understand numbers and situations.”
Neither Davis or Johnson are exemplary shooters. Painter stressed that Davis struggled in that area in Italy and Johnson connected on just under 31 percent of his three-point shots as a sophomore.
While Davis was making an impression on the Boilermaker coaching staff, Johnson didn't have the best series of games according to his coach.
“Terone had a tough time adjusting to how the (European) game was called,” Painter said. “It frustrated him at times. We need Terone to be the guy that leads by example, on and off of the court, and does the right thing when the ball is in his hands. He did not do a good job of taking care of the ball. He didn't get a lot of rebounds. On the defensive end, I didn't think that he was locked in like he is capable of being.”