Purdue experiment with ‘twin towers’ to be on limited basis

Butler's Aaron Thompson makes a pass against Purdue's Matt Haarms (32) and Isaac Haas (44) during the first half of a recent game in Indianapolis. (By The Associated Press)
Butler's Kamar Baldwin (3) and Purdue's Isaac Haas (44) battle for a rebound during the first half of a recent game in Indianapolis. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter shouts instruction during the second half of a recent game against Butler in Indianapolis. (By The Associated Press)
Butler's Kamar Baldwin (3) shoots over Purdue's Matt Haarms (32) during the first half of a recent game in Indianapolis. (By The Associated Press)
Purdue's Isaac Haas (44) shoots over Butler's Nate Fowler (51) during the first half of a recent game in Indianapolis. (By The Associated Press)

There aren’t very many college basketball teams that have the luxury of utilizing a 7-foot-2 player that actually can play, and there are even fewer programs that can pair that guy with a 7-foot-3 teammate, who also has ability. But that is precisely one of the many things that Purdue is getting to enjoy this season.

Veteran Boilermaker coach Matt Painter laughed off the notion earlier this season of playing big men together, despite requests from the media to do so in the past. However, with 7-2 senior Isaac Hass and 7-3 redshirt freshman Matt Haarms having varying skill sets, playing both simultaneously is a definite possibility, and in fact, has become a reality at times for the Boilers.

“You guys have always tried to get me to play like Haas and (A.J.) Hammonds together,” Painter told the media earlier this season. “That was not going to work. You can write your article. It’s your business. But I want to keep my job.”

“There is no question that we can play both (Haas and Haarms) together. Matt makes it work. That’s the one who makes it.”

Hammonds certainly could do things that Haarms isn’t capable of – yet. However, he wasn’t as mobile defensively and didn’t have the face-up offensive skills that Haarms possesses. Painter has slowly experimented in the non-league portion of this year’s schedule by playing both his traditional post (Haas) and his lengthy stretch four (Haarms) together and it has been productive at times.

“It just depends,” Painter said. “Matt really gives us a boost. He can block shots and he has energy.”

Painter first used the two players together for a 5:28 stretch against a long Louisville team about a month ago and then has done so in short stretches against Valparaiso, Butler and IUPUI.

The coach didn’t do so Thursday in a rout of Tennessee State, however.

“Being able to see those guys against certain people is a possibility,” Painter said. “But I also like our lineup in how it is spread out.”

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The problem with playing Haas and Haarms together for more than just a few minutes is that it will mean Purdue wouldn’t be playing All-Big Ten forward Vince Edwards, and taking him off the court isn’t conducive to winning games.

“We have a pretty good match-up at the four (spot) with how we start,” Painter said of playing Edwards. “Vince was third team all-conference (last year) and he’ll be all-conference again this year.”

Having too much talent is a nice problem to have, so no one is complaining. However, what the logjam of talent means is that there will be limited opportunities for some players stuck behind Haarms and Edwards at the forward spot.

Guys like juniors Grady Eifert and Jacquil Taylor will see fewer minutes as this season progresses because of the emergence of Haarms, who is averaging 21 minutes per game over the last four games.

Eifert opened the season by playing double-digit minutes in the Boilers’ initial four games, but hasn’t done so since.

In the case of Taylor, he had either not played at all, or played less than a minute, in five of the preceding nine games before getting nine minutes Thursday.

“Some other guys on our team that haven’t played as much in the past five or six games,” Painter said, “it’s just that I’m trying to get Matt Haarms on the court more. I think that he brings an element of defense and energy that really helps our team.”

EWING GONE

One playing time dilemma at the forward spot was eliminated this week due to the fact that junior Eden Ewing was dismissed from the program due to violation of team rules.

Purdue did not make clear what the specific violation was, but Painter explained that he doesn’t necessarily apply the same disciplinary action to every situation that arises.

“I think fewer rules are better in any type of business,” Painter said Thursday. “The one thing that I’ve tried to do is always give people that work for me or people that play for me is the benefit of the doubt.”

A year ago, Painter simply suspended guard Ryan Cline for four regular season games following his arrest and being charged with marijuana possession. But in Ewing’s case, there was no prior suspension given.

“Everything is not the same,” Painter said of Ewing’s situation. “You try to help people. We’re in the business of helping young people, helping them to get better.”

“It’s unfortunate that it didn’t work for (Ewing). Hopefully, it can help him down the road.”

Ewing had played sparingly (six games) after transferring from Tyler Junior College in Texas this past summer.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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