A.J. Hammons is out and Jay Simpson is in. That might have big implications for Purdue this basketball season.
Yes, Travis Carroll is also in the inside mix in the aftermath of Hammons' three-game suspension for a violation of team rules. But Simpson is the player who could benefit the most.
Because Simpson is, according to coach Matt Painter, “as talented as anybody we've had here, if not more.”
For the record, Hammons is a 7-foot, 251-pound sophomore. Simpson is a 6-10, 250-pound redshirt freshman.
Simpson's keys are simple, Painter said. He has to “get in better shape and understand what's going on around him.” He has to be “productive when he's fatigued.”
“He decides how much I play him and how I use him.”
Last spring Painter told Simpson he wasn't going to talk about his potential, but his production.
“When he's out there, there's a game going on around him. He has to be locked in. He has to play hard at all times. If he does that, he will be fine.”
Hammons averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds last year and made the Big Ten's all-freshman team. There is speculation that he could enter the NBA draft next spring if he has a good enough sophomore season.
And yet, Painter said that Hammons is not more talented than Simpson, but that Hammons is more productive. He said the Boilers will try to use this suspension “as a positive.”
“Jay and Travis will be able to play more to start the season, and use it as a springboard for the season. Maybe Jay can flip some things. That can really help Purdue.”
Hammons will miss two exhibition games -- Wednesday against the University of Indianapolis and Monday against Wayne State -- and the Nov. 8 season opener against Northern Kentucky. Painter said the suspension involved “conduct” and not academics or legal issues or NCAA violations.
The objective is to help make Hammons a better person as well as a better player.
“When a guy violates a rule, you try to hold him accountable,” Painter said. “Hopefully, he'll be better because of it.”
Painter said Hammons “has all the physical tools to be successful down the line,” but that Hammons has to do what he's supposed to do, daily things such as going to class, working hard and treating people with respect.
“Keep it that simple. When that happens, talented people take off. When it doesn't happen …
“There are a lot of people as talented as A.J. in the NBA, and a lot in the (NBA's) D-League and playing overseas. I want to do my part so he doesn't just make the NBA, but stays in the NBA.
“The draft is an ego trip. It's about going somewhere and staying there. It's hard. It's hard to do. The NBA is a man's world. You're going against 28 to 30-year-olds who have eight years experience. You've got to fight every day so you're prepared for something of that nature.
“We have to get him consistent. When he does that, he'll take off. That's up to him. He has to know we're doing everything in our power to help him.”