INDIANAPOLIS - Purdue has lost three of its last four games and looking at its Big Ten schedule that opens in two weeks, you'd have to be a relative of Boilermaker coach Matt Painter to feel very confident about what the immediate future holds for this program.
You don't have to be a member of the John Purdue Club to feel positive about the long-term future of the Boilermakers, especially after watching freshman guard Rapheal Davis play in Saturday's 81-68 defeat to 22nd-ranked Notre Dame.
The Fort Wayne native scored 21 points in the second half to lead Purdue (4-6) and he finished the game having made eight of his nine shots.
“He had a great game,” Painter said. “He's a good scorer. He definitely gave us a lift there offensively in the second half.
And boy, did the Boilers ever need it. Purdue opened the second half against the Fighting Irish by making one basket in the initial 9:38 of play. But over the final 10:22, Davis made shot after shot.
He entered Saturday's game averaging less than 10 minutes per game, mostly due to his inexperience in playing defense at the major college level, as well as his propensity to turn the ball over (11 turnovers in just 88 minutes). But a talk with his father (Richard Davis) the night before, relaxed Davis and he felt good entering Saturday's game.
“I had a long talk with my dad about not keeping my head down about playing so much,” Davis said. “Just to play like I play back when I played Upward (Basketball) and I just came out and played my game.”
Davis' development would follow that of two other true freshmen in the Boilermaker program (center A.J. Hammons and point guard Ronnie Johnson), both of whom have already shown tremendous ability, not just potential.
Johnson finished with 15 points and three assists against Notre Dame, while Hammons (seven points and four rebounds) didn't have his best game on Saturday, but has played really well overall for a first-year player and is the Boilers' best post player.
Painter wasn't surprised by Davis' production, he's just waiting for growth “in other areas” from the wing.
“He really got aggressive and attacked the basket,” Painter said. “He's always been known as a scorer, (but) he's improving in other areas.”
Davis has been blocked for minutes by senior D.J. Byrd and Purdue's best player, junior guard Terone Johnson. But that could change according to Painter.
“(Davis) just needs time, he needs minutes,” Painter said. “It's hard with the make-up of our team sometimes for that to happen. But if you play that well, consistently, you're going to put yourself in position where you are going to be out there a lot.”