Earlier this season, Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter didn't feel completely comfortable utilizing freshman forward Rapheal Davis in certain situations.
When the Boilers went on the road and played a pressure defense (in the second half) against Clemson, the Fort Wayne native was on the court for just a couple of minutes. The next game against Xavier, Davis sat with the coaches for 37 minutes. However, there were signs – not all of which came during games – that Painter saw potential in his young player.
“He continues to work hard,” Painter said. “He flat-out leads our team through his effort, attitude, and his work ethic.”
Davis was named as the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday after helping the Boilermakers (15-16) to a pair of strong performances against Michigan (an 80-75 loss) and Minnesota (an 89-73 win).
Painter has been brutally honest throughout this season about his disappointment in a lot of his players when it comes to their lack of leadership and work ethic. That lack of effort is a key reason as to why the Boilermakers more than likely won't be in the NCAA Tournament this month. However, no one should include Davis in that criticized group.
“He has a willingness to come in extra and do the little things have really helped him play better,” Painter said. “He's worked on his game for the whole year. It wasn't something that he just started for two or three weeks. We've had to beg certain guys (to work harder), but now we don't beg them anymore, we just point to Rapheal.”
Davis scored 18 points against the Golden Gophers after scoring 15 points and pulling down nine rebounds against seventh-ranked Michigan earlier in the week. In the two outings, he shot a combined 11 of 17 from the field, which is a testament to his focus on developing his shot, according to Painter.
“He's finding his niche,” Painter said. “When to attack and when not to attack. He's feeling more comfortable on the court and he's more aggressive. He's continued to work on his perimeter game to be a consistent three-point shooter (he's hitting 27.6 percent on the year).”
The Boilermakers have claimed the No. 7 seed at this week's Big Ten Tournament in Chicago. They will play 10th-seeded Nebraska at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Thursday on ESPN2.
Purdue had several players honored as All-Big Ten Conference selections on Monday.
Topping the list was junior guard Terone Johnson, who was selected as a third team honoree by the coaches and an honorable mention selection by the media.
“Terone's done some good things,” Painter said. “He's been more consistent and he's figuring out when to choose his spots in terms of taking shots and when not to take shots. That is really important for our team.”
Senior forward D.J. Byrd was also an honorable mention selection by the media, while freshman center A.J. Hammons was named to the All-Freshman squad.
Dru Anthrop was recognized as Purdue’s honoree for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
The senior guard has played in 19 games this season, with a pair of starts, and averaged 0.7 points and 1.1 rebounds per contest.
The Lafayette native and his father, John, are the only father-son combo to both win Big Ten championships as Purdue players.