Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter admitted earlier this spring that A.J. Hammon's talent level, not necessarily his effort, enabled him to receive significant playing time for the Boilermakers this past season. However, Hammons' next test won't be as easy as simply beating out fellow Boilermakers Sandi Marcius or Travis Carroll.
The Boilermaker sophomore center was one of 29 invitees on Monday to participate in the training camp for the 2013 World University Games later this month in Colorado Springs, Colo. It will be there, where a lack of effort will make the selection committee's (of which Painter is a member) decision on who travels to the Games, which will be played July 6 to 17 in Kazan, Russia, an easy one.
“I can sit here and talk in theory about what I want to do (next season),” Painter said earlier this spring. “We need guys that play hard. There is not a guy that is excluded.”
Painter stressed the importance of effort throughout the 2012-13 season with mixed results. The ninth-year Boilermaker coach wants maximum effort out of his guys next season, but he also has to worry about winning games by playing productive players, of which Hammons often was.
“You can't contradict yourself, it's effort and results,” Painter said. “There's some guys that don't practice hard, and they should. But they are better than the guys that are in front of them and they give us a better chance to win, so they play more. Anybody that doesn't understand that doesn't understand basketball. But when you're not in that spot, when you have that ultimate talent, the guys that are going to play the hardest, are the guys that are going to help you win.”
That is precisely where Hammons finds himself with the United States group that will gather later this month in preparation of the tournament. The final cut for the 12-man squad will be by June 28 and the head of the selection committee knows it'll be competitive to represent the United States.
“The committee has assembled one of the strongest World University Games training camp rosters USA Basketball has ever had,” Syracuse coach and chair of the USA Men's Junior National Team Committee Jim Boeheim said in a release. “It includes some of the top players in college basketball, several of whom have international experience. Selecting the players for the final roster is going to be a real challenge.”
The 7-foot Hammons was a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection this past seasons after leading the conference in blocks per game during league play. He also ranked in the league's top 10 in both field goal percentage and rebounding average in Big Ten games.
The Gary native led the Boilermakers in rebounds (six per game) and blocks (two per game), while ranking second on the team with a 10.6 scoring average. However, Painter was never truly satisfied with the youngster's effort during games or practices.
“(Consistent effort) is a big challenge for big A.J.,” Painter said. “Big A.J. was inconsistent in (effort), but he's probably the best that he's ever been in that area, so he's made improvements, but he's still inconsistent.”
Hammons scored in double figures 19 times on the year, leading Purdue in scoring on six occasions, and produced three double-doubles. He finished his rookie season ranked 13th on Purdue's career chart with 67 blocks.
His 2012-13 production also ranked second on the program's freshman list for blocks (67), third for rebounds (204) and sixth for points (359). He was the lone active freshman in the power six conferences to finish the season with averages of at least 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
“Once A.J. gets consistent (with his effort),” Painter explained, “I think the sky's the limit for him. I think that he'll be a very productive player. But until that comes, he's hit or miss at times.”
There are an abundance of players and coaches that will be involved in the upcoming camp that Indiana basketball fans are familiar with.
Not only is Painter on the committee, but Grace College men's basketball coach Jim Kessler will serve as a court coach for the training camp.
Also earning invitations to try out for the squad will be Indiana players Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey, as well as Notre Dame players Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.
The squad will be coached by Davidson College's Bob McKillop, who will be assisted by Michigan's John Beilein and South Carolina's Frank Martin.
Pick and choose
Here is the list of 29 players vying for the 12 roster spots:
Eric Atkins, Notre Dame
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
Deonte Burton, Nevada
Quinn Cook, Duke
Bryce Cotton, Providence
Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
CJ Fair, Syracuse
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Davante Gardner, Marquette
Treveon Graham, VCU
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
PJ Hairston, North Carolina
A.J. Hammons, Purdue
Luke Hancock, Louisville
Joe Harris, Virginia
Tyler Haws, BYU
Andre Hollins, Minnesota
Rodney Hood, Duke
Josh Huestis, Stanford
Cory Jefferson, Baylor
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Alex Kirk, New Mexico
Devyn Marble, Iowa
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Chasson Randle, Stanford
Will Sheehey, Indiana
Aaron White, Iowa
Kendall Williams, New Mexico