WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue has a lot of new faces along the baseline, and that is causing some consternation for men's basketball coach Matt Painter as he tries to figure out the varying roles and minutes he will divvy up.
At least he can take solace in the fact his backcourt rotation has been pretty stable through the early practices.
Oh, wait, that isn't the case either.
“Right now I like our pieces,” Painter said of his perimeter players. “But we're not extremely deep like we've been. If you look at the five guys for three positions, which is very doable, but we all know, injuries play a part, something always seems to happen.”
The Johnson brothers (freshman Ronnie and junior Terone) could be paired together at the point guard and shooting guard spots, respectively. Sophomore Anthony Johnson could fill in at either spot.
So where does that leave freshman Rapheal Davis?
“He's a guy that has put himself in position to be right there,” Painter said of the Fort Wayne native.
Davis came to West Lafayette with a scorer's mentality and it showed as he led the Boilermakers in scoring during their four-game exhibition tour of Italy in August. However, apparently Purdue is going to play full-court basketball this season, so Painter is more concerned with Davis' defensive ability.
“He's trying to learn from those (older) guys,” Painter said. “And at times, he's also competing with those guys. It's one of those things where your teammates help you, but you are also trying to battle for minutes and also trying to start.”
The 6-foot-5 guard has some traits in his favor, such as his work ethic. However, Davis also has a big negative that will be an obstacle as he learns to play at the highest collegiate level.
“(Rapheal) can score the basketball,” Painter said. “We're trying to help him along the lines of making good decisions and defending. It's been difficult for Rapheal in the sense that he's had four coaches in four years in high school. So it's really not fair to him to really pass judgment at this early stage.”
Painter, his staff and the veteran Boilermakers are each assisting Davis through these early days of practice, and the coach is seeing progress.
“He's constantly trying,” Painter said. “(Rapheal) puts in a lot of time on his game. He comes in early and shoots. He really cares and wants to be a player.”
How will the perimeter positions play out for Purdue this season? Here is an early look:
Point guard – Ronnie Johnson, 6-foot, freshman
This is Johnson's job to lose, and early indications are he won't. Boilermaker fans should get used to seeing the North Central product on the floor; he'll be there for four more years.
Painter on Johnson: He sees a frame ahead. If somebody is open, he gets them the ball. That's just a quality that our other guys don't have.
Backup plan: If Ronnie goes down, Painter could keep this job in the family. Junior guard Terone Johnson is a "combo guard" who can play the point, but more likely the job would go to sophomore Anthony Johnson (no relation to the other two). Senior Dru Anthrop earned a serious look for playing time as well with a strong trip to Italy in August.
Shooting guard – Terone Johnson, 6-2, junior
The elder Johnson is competing with freshman Rapheal Davis for this job; however, he has the advantages of experience, decision making and defensive knowledge over the bigger, yet younger Davis.
Painter on Johnson: Terone has had some success, yet he and (D.J. Byrd) haven't been our main guys. I just want him to be better at who he is. Don't try to be somebody else. Be your own guy and play to your strength.
Backup plan: This role is freshman Rapheal Davis' to lose, and he has the drive, maturity and intelligence not to blow it. In fact, don't be surprised if Davis doesn't start, yet plays more minutes than Terone Johnson. Also, sophomore Anthony Johnson has the ability to score the ball at this slot.