WEST LAFAYETTE – When Purdue men’s basketball coach Matt Painter evaluates his players – in particular freshman center A. J. Hammons – he doesn’t focus on statistics. The veteran coach said recently his attention is devoted to signs of effort and concentration in following the scouting report in regards to Hammons, and in that, he has been pleased for the past couple of outings.
“We’re just trying to get him to be consistent,” Painter said. “He’s really worked hard at (studying) the scouting report and focusing on who he is going to go against.”
The Boilermakers (11-10, 4-4 Big Ten) will travel to Northwestern (12-10, 3-6) today at noon (ESPN2, 1380-AM).
It’s believable that Painter is more impressed with Hammons sprinting down the court to get into better defensive or offensive position on a regular basis, than just sheer numbers. However, anytime a kid drops 30 points on a first team All-American (Indiana center Cody Zeller on Wednesday), it has to capture any coach’s attention.
“He had a better focus,” Painter said.
What was even more impressive about Hammons’ outing against the Hoosiers was the fact that he continued to be aggressive and produce while battling through early foul trouble.
“It was a tough challenge for him,” Painter said. “It’s not going to be the last time that Cody Zeller gets somebody in foul trouble.”
The consistency that Painter speaks of can be traced to numbers, however. When Hammons works hard, he produces on the glass and in the basket. Following scoring in double figures 10 of 14 games, Hammons produced just four, two and seven points through a three-game stretch heading into the loss to Indiana. However, in that final game against Iowa, in which he scored seven points, Hammons also grabbed 10 rebounds, so there was signs of effort in that game.
“He played hard against Iowa,” Painter said. “He gave good effort.”
Now that Hammons has demonstrated the ability to excel against the best that the nation has to offer, Painter is seeking, perhaps not a 30-point average of course, but the effort has to be the same each night.
“It’s really a simple game if you play hard and you follow your scouting report in what you are supposed to do,” Painter said.