WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue's Terone Johnson looked into last year's leadership mirror and didn't like the reflection. He expects to change. He has to change. Boiler basketball prospects depend on it.
“I definitely have to lead better,” the senior guard says. “I led last year, but not in a good manner. Sometimes I just hollered at guys. This year I have to be more accountable. I have to be a 100 percent guy.”
In other words, be committed, consistent and passionate. Johnson's numbers have improved each season, but Purdue needs more than that.
“I can't mess up,” he says. “When it comes down to it, I've got younger guys watching me. They're watching me if I mess up, and that gives them leeway ... . So I've got to be a 100 percent guy.”
Johnson takes it personally that last year's 16-18 recorded ended the program's six straight NCAA tourney appearances. The practices and workouts are designed to turn that around.
“It's way more intense this year,” he says. “We have a lot more to prove. We let our fans down. That's not something we want on our heads.”
Last year Purdue opened 4-5 with all five losses by eight or fewer points. A season-opening 70-65 home defeat to Bucknell set a tone the Boilers never overcame. Johnson knows that has to be reversed, and it starts with him.
“We have to play smart. Those games we lost, the mistakes were mostly on us. They were mistakes that we made and not that the other teams caused us to make.
“Whether that's running the right play or doing the right thing down the stretch, we have to have those guys in at the end of the game we can trust. We need those 100 percent guys.”
It starts with full-throttle effort, something coach Matt Painter's teams are known for, but didn't always deliver last season.
“It's playing hard consistently,” Johnson says. “Last year we'd only play in spurts where we'd go as hard as we could. We have the talent, but playing hard on a consistent basis is something we have to do. Also being patiently aggressive on offense and defense.”
Johnson is coming off his best season, when he averaged 13.5 points and 4.7 rebounds. He had 95 assists against 66 turnovers. He's improved his conditioning and strength while keeping his 198-pound weight.
“I tightened up what I had. It's helped as far as conditioning. Just being that much more lean helps.”
Johnson is one of 11 scholarship players who give Painter the depth and experience he didn't have last year.
Johnson and his younger brother Ronnie will lead a backcourt that also will include sophomore Rapheal Davis, a former South Side standout, along with three freshmen – former Northrop standout Bryson Scott, Basil Smotherman and Kendall Stephens – plus fifth-year senior transfer Sterling Carter.
The frontcourt has 7-foot sophomore center A.J. Hammons, good enough to generate speculation that he might leave for the NBA draft next spring, plus senior Travis Carroll, redshirt freshman Jay Simpson and fifth-year-senior transfer Errick Peck.
Peck, who is from Indianapolis, played three years at Cornell. Carter played three years at Seattle University.
“We have something this year that we didn't have last year -- more guys competing for playing time,” Painter said.
Purdue gets commitment
Jacquil Taylor does not project as an instant-impact freshman in the manner of, say, A.J. Hammons.
Taylor is a bit lean at 6-10 and 215 pounds. He's not quite as basketball developed as Hammons was last year as a freshman, when Hammons averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds while blocking 67 shots. Taylor is more of a defensive presence than a scorer.
But the Massachusetts center does meet Painter's recruit-size priority for the Class of 2014. He picked the Boilers over St. Joseph's, North Carolina A&T and Providence. He had earlier been offered by Maryland and Massachusetts, but a foot injury that sidelined him last summer cost him.
Taylor is Purdue's third committed player for 2014, joining forward Vince Edwards and guard Dakota Mathias. The Boilers targeted another big man because there's a chance Hammons could leave for the NBA draft after this season.
Taylor's commitment comes after three guard prospects -- Byrant McIntosh (to Northwestern), Ronnie Harrell (to Creighton) and J.P. Macura (Xavier) -- passed on the Boilers. Purdue seems out of the mix for Virginia center Jabari Craig, who is rated the No. 144 player. USC and Arizona State are his top choices.