WEST LAFAYETTE – For Purdue, for now, basketball youth isn’t wasted on the young.
The three freshmen are making an impact, and if it sometimes comes with a few glitches, well, Matt Painter can live with it. Why? Because these guys, like all the Boilers, make it fun to coach again.
“We’re excited about the season,” he said. “We have some new pieces. They put in a lot of hard work over the summer.
“We have to dominate the play-hard category. That’s what Purdue has been about. We’re starting to piece some things together.”
Case in point, Saturday morning’s scrimmage at Mackey Arena.
Point guard Bryson Scott, shooting guard Kendall Stephens and swingman Basil Smotherman combined for 54 points. They went 17-for-30 from the field, and 17-for-19 from the line.
HOT POINT: if you remember last year’s free throw struggles, you know how big that free throw accuracy is.
Scott, the former Northrop standout, had 23 points, four assists, four rebounds and five steals. Stephens had 13 points and nine rebounds. Smotherman went 6-for-6 from the field for 18 points and six rebounds. He also had a monster dunk that brought a big roar from the several thousand fans in attendance.
All three will push veterans for playing time.
“I think once they saw it wasn't going to be easy to come in here and get playing time, they really ramped up their level of play,” senior guard Sterling Carter said. “It's paying off for them. They're a very aggressive group.”
Carter understands that aggressiveness. He’s a newcomer himself as a fifth-year senior transfer from Seattle.
The veterans have set an aggressive tone as they didn’t during last year’s 16-18 disappointment, senior guard Terone Johnson said.
“As upperclassmen, I don't think we set a good example for the guys coming in last summer. This year our (new) guys came in and all they saw was us in the gym and how hard we were going in workouts. When you come in and see that, you know nothing else. That's something they've done. They've stayed in the gym. I've come in at night and they're in there.”
As far as youthful glitches, Scott had six turnovers, which is not what you want from your point guard.
“We just have to keep working on it, keep helping him understand getting us into offense and when it's there and when it's not there," Painter said. "At times, he attacks when it's not there. That's something where we have to keep watching film with him, keep showing him that you just can't take your man every single time. But I love his energy and aggressiveness."
For good reason – Scott produces. In two scrimmages he’s averaged 20.5 points and 6.0 assists. He’s gone 21-for-25 from the line.
Oh, yes. His scrimmage teams win.
“Bryson's aggressive every day," Painter said. "That's what we need. We need his energy and we need him locking down on the defensive end and being aggressive with the basketball when he has angles and when he has numbers."
Added Johnson: “He's just a hard-nosed, competitive player. We saw him in high school and he felt he deserved a little more respect. You can tell he's worked on his game. He's really hard-nosed and competitive and he's going to go at anybody that's in front of him."
Purdue’s versatility was everywhere you looked, whether it was center A.J. Hammons hitting a three (he finished with 11 points) or Rapheal Davis, the former South Side standout, bringing it up the court when he wasn’t grabbing one of his scrimmage-high 12 rebounds. He added 11 points.
Painter roamed the sidelines and baselines, shouting instructions, encouragement and, occasionally, jokes. He enjoys coaching this group, and it showed.
Purdue had to improve its shooting and the addition of Carter will help. He had five three-pointers for 15 points. The other senior transfer, forward Errick Peck, had 14 points and six rebounds.
The Boilers will play their first exhibition Wednesday night against the University of Indianapolis.