Posted: 10:50 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013
By Luke Zimmermann
THE MODERATOR: Next up is head coach Matt Painter.
COACH PAINTER: Obviously really excited, like all the coaches, for the start of a new year. We had a very young team last year. Still have a lot of freshmen and sophomores this year, but with more experience.
We talked about returning four starters, and I really don't know who our starters are going to be. I think it's a good thing for us. We have more depth. We have more experience. We have nobody in our junior class. So we have four seniors, two guys that have been with us four years, and we have two fifth‑year guys that hopefully can bring us some stability and some experience, some maturity, to balance out the youth that we have on our team.
But after having a tough nonconference last year, I thought we battled to be able to tie it 8‑10 in the best conference in America after going to six straight NCAA Tournaments.
But we had struggled so much in nonconference, such a tough nonconference, that we just put ourselves in a bad position. So hoping to have more consistency earlier in the season this year, and just simply play better.
So like I said, I'm excited for this team. I'm excited for our pieces. Now we're just going to have to put it together and be a good team.
Q. Last year you talked about some of the lack of commitment from your guys about getting into the gym and working hard. Has that changed? And, if so, how has it changed?
COACH PAINTER: Yeah, I think the younger guys, the guys that started, Ronnie Johnson, Rapheal Davis, and A.J. Hammons, all those guys that have had a better summer, they know what to expect. Terone Johnson and Travis Carroll have done a good job of being leaders and being in the gym and being 12‑month guys.
We've had freshmen come in from day one who worked very hard. And they continue to spend a lot of time in the gym. I think that's something that happens a lot, because when you have more time in the summer, you do put that extra time in and that extra effort, but then once school starts and you get a full academic load, you start with conditioning, you start with weights, you start with individual workouts, now do you put in that kind of time?
Since the start of school we've been able to see that with guys coming in after study table, guys coming in at night, some guys coming in early in the morning. And I think you can see it in some of our numbers and shooting in practices and in scrimmages, guys are being more consistent from the line, guys are being more consistent from 3.
I did feel that our struggles last year to shoot the basketball lied in our skill level at times but also in our decision‑making. You have to be able to understand what a good shot is for you, and that might be different from one of your teammates. And kind of sometimes when ego clashes with reality, it's hard for a guy to pass up a shot so Purdue can get a better shot a little bit later in the shot clock. There's a part of working on your game, there's a part of understanding who you are and having discipline and taking a good shot.
Q. You talked about the guys making more of a commitment in the offseason to doing the work that needs to be done, but A.J. Hammons is going to start the year with a three‑game suspension. Is this a concern for Purdue fans long term that he still hasn't got the right attitude?
COACH PAINTER: I don't know if it's an attitude. He obviously stubbed his toe and he'll have to pay for that. That question's really for him, not me. And I understand you're asking me, but a lot of times what happens in our business, when you deal with young people, is you get a lot of lip service. They learn to say the right things. Will they do the right things? And I think that's the‑‑ I know I'm not answering your question, but it doesn't lie with me.
He's got to be able to now show action. It's like leadership. Whenever there's some disciplinary action, you know, now when you gotta make your next step‑‑ leadership's action. Everybody says the right things in a huddle, but you go out and do the right things as a leader, that's the example.
Anytime there's disciplinary action, now can you learn from it now be able to go out there and be consistent on and off the court.
Q. I know it's very early, but thoughts on the Big Ten, how you see it shaping up.
COACH PAINTER: I think we obviously had a great year last year as a league. How it gets shaped from a national level, there's a couple of different factors I think that goes into it. Always want to take a snapshot how we do in the ACC‑Big Ten challenge. You take your overall nonconference slate, which 95 to 98percent of that will be complete around Christmastime, there will still be a couple of lingering games for a couple of schools, and then you see where you are.
I think with the moving parts, with like Syracuse and Pitt and Notre Dame going into the ACC, you're talking about a league that you've had to battle before in terms of about what's the best league in the country. That's now different. Obviously the Big East is different. And so it's very difficult.
But we have some really talented teams in our league. Michigan State has a lot of guys back, a lot of experience. Michigan has a lot of guys back. Ohio State, I think, has a potential to be one of the best defensive teams in the country. I like the way they can put pressure on the ball and be versatile with Craft and Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith and Sam Thompson. They have very, very good players, but those guys all can guard. And then Wisconsin is always right there. I'm going to leave out a couple of teams, probably.
But I always try to stay traditional, if you look at 10 years, 12 years and you run that data with the guys that are in our league, especially those coaches that have been here forever. So I think those guys will be at the heap.
But I think it's also one of those deals we have teams we can get seven or eight teams possibly in the NCAA Tournament. And that's what you're striving to do, get as many teams in as you can.
Q. There's a lot of good defensive teams in this league, as you know, including your own. Are the new rules going to penalize the good defenses teams, the teams that hang their hat on that?
COACH PAINTER: I think in theory, in talking with them, it's something they feel they're going to stay with. If you're telling me the way the games are going to be called and exhibition games are the way they're going to call them in the Big Ten, we're going to have a lot of good players watching basketball. I don't think that will sit with people in this room, with players and coaches across the country. It's definitely not going to sit with the fans. I think there's a different way to increase scoring, if that's what they're trying to do.
The only thing I do as a coach is take what our officials coordinator tells us and adjust, and then within the course of a game try to get your players to adjust. So we're trying to be better in terms of position defense and keeping the ball in front of us without using our hands.
But it will be interesting to see what happens here. If the way the games are getting called in exhibition games are the way they're going to be called in nonconference, then the reaction from everybody.
Q. You have Bryson's starting last night in the exhibition game, and also Kendall and Basil contributing quite a bit. Have you been at all surprised by how much these freshmen have been able to challenge the returners and move themselves into the rotation?
COACH PAINTER: Not really. All three came in with great attitudes. And they've all played very hard. Basil Smotherman and Kendall Stephens, they could have started for us last night. They didn't, but they're in the mix in terms of the conversation. I think that competition and that depth is going to help us.
Ronnie Johnson is our best quintessential point guard in doing the things necessary to be a good point guard. And Terone Johnson deserved to play more than any player we had on our team.
But with that being said, Bryson Scott led in competitive drills in practice. We accumulated 50 different competitive drills through our practices, and he had the best win/loss percentage in those. I told our guys, and I told him and I told Ronnie, that the last time I checked, we get gauged on winning. And I just felt that he had earned that spot through his consistent kind of competitive nature through practice.
So he reminds me a lot of Chris Kramer from that respect in terms of just how hard he plays and how he competes every day.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.
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