Since the season is over, and there is really nothing to preview in the immediate future for the Purdue basketball team, I thought I would offer some thoughts on next season.
Purdue’s 16-18 overall record this season was certainly not what it wanted. Seniors D.J. Byrd and Dru Anthrop will not be back next year. One thing that a lot of fans do is underestimate a value of a certain player if they are not a star. They skip over the “glue” guys and the guys that don’t attract attention to themselves. Lewis Jackson is an example of this. Jackson was an extremely good point guard, even great at times. People underestimated him leaving and what kind of effect it would have. I think similar things might be said for Byrd. Yes, he didn’t play great this season. Nobody did. But even the shots he didn’t hit, he was stretching the floor. Purdue won’t have a player like that next season. Incoming freshman Kendall Stephens can be that guy, but to expect him to come in right away and do the same things as Byrd would be unfair. Although I do think Purdue collectively — if players work on their games over the summer — should be a better three-point shooting team. I think there is potential there for Terone Johnson and Rapheal Davis to improve their percentages.
Improve is a key word for next season. If this young team doesn’t put the work in during the offseason, I would expect similar results for next season; however, if players like Hammons, Ronnie, Davis and Simpson all improve, Purdue could be pretty good. And the potential is there for all four of those players to be great. The question is do they want to?
The incoming freshmen are highly-touted. Kendall Stephens, as mentioned above, is a 6-6 shooting guard that can really shoot it. If you YouTube his name and watch some of his videos, you will be impressed. He has a very good looking stroke. He needs to put on some weight and muscle if he wants to play in the Big Ten, though. Basil Smotherman is a really interesting prospect. During his freshman year in high school he was one of the top 30 or so ranked players nationally. Then he fell of the face of the earth so to speak. He fell out of the rankings and still isn’t ranked in the top 150. But all reports out there are that he has really transformed as a player in the last year or so and should be in the ranking the next time they are out. He is a 6-7, athletic wing-type player that can shoot from the perimeter. And lastly is probably the most anticipated recruit of them all, Bryson Scott. I don’t think it’s for his skillset either, although it’s pretty good. Scott’s intangibles are what sets him apart from everyone else. He hates losing and will do anything not to. You hear about a lot of players that are like that. None more than Scott. He has the potential to change the makeup of this team, an issue that head coach Matt Painter commented all season as something that needs to change, the culture of Purdue basketball that is.
I think next season will be better. How much better I do not know. I do think the incoming class will help this team get back into the top 25 at some point next year.