For Matt Painter, the most frustrating season of his eight-year tenure at Purdue appears to be over.
Following the losses of three All-Americans in E’Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel, the program was due for a down year. However, most didn’t expect this season to be this much of a struggle. Despite a promising final two weeks to the regular season, Purdue’s postseason ended with a thud after a loss to hapless Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament’s opening round. At 15-17, it does not seem likely that this 2012-13 campaign will continue, which is something that most Purdue fans seem to be content with.
The most alarming aspect of this team was that their effort - a staple of Purdue basketball – wasn’t always there. The Boilers generated just 44 points in an embarrassing pre-conference loss to Eastern Michigan, and completely no-showed in trips to Evanston and Champaign. Painter benched star freshman A.J. Hammons (twice) to send a message, questioned his team's heart publicly, shortened his bench, and even got himself ejected in a loss to Illinois, yet nothing seemed to work for this group. Hammons struggled with giving consistent effort on both ends of the floor. D.J. Byrd, a role player for his first three years, couldn’t handle being a go-to-guy. Terone Johnson was hit or miss, and his brother, Ronnie, played like a freshman.
Painter tried everything to get through to his team this year
There is reason for optimism, though. Byrd and Dru Anthrop are the only departures off of a team that will return nine of its ten top scorers. Purdue also welcomes in a talented freshman class led by local product Basil Smotherman, soon-to-be Indiana All-Star Bryson Scott, and legacy Kendall Stephens (son of the great Everette Stephens). Hammons will likely be a pre-season All-Big Ten pick, and this current freshman group will have a full season under their belts. However, how Purdue looks on paper doesn’t matter unless they get the effort that we’re used to seeing from Matt Painter’s teams.
Painter stressed following yesterday’s loss that he needed “12-month guys” that want to play. If he can squeeze that effort out of next year’s squad, this forgettable 2012-13 season should just be a blip on the radar.