WEST LAFAYETTE – Due to the abundance of inexperienced players, the 2012-13 season for Purdue basketball fans will be, as Forrest Gump preached, “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.”
However, eighth-year Boilermaker coach Matt Painter likes the wrapping on that box as he and his team open the season tonight at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game against Montevallo (Big Ten Network).
“Last year, what we didn't get, was that we didn't get any post-ups,” Painter said recently. “Now, we'll obviously post-up a lot more.”
That is due to the addition of seven-foot freshman center A.J. Hammons, 6-foot-9 freshman Jay Simpson and 6-foot-8 redshirt freshman Donnie Hale.
“Anytime that you have some guys that can score down there (on the block),” Painter explained, “it's very, very important that they get touches, even if they don't shoot the basketball, and then being able to play inside-out.”
Those three are the unknowns along the baseline, while former South Side High School standout Rapheal Davis (6-foot-5 guard) and Ronnie Johnson (6-0 guard) are the new faces in the back court.
Here is what Painter had to say about each of the newcomers:
Jay Simpson (6-9, 268 pounds, freshman forward)
“Jay for us is a little bit of a wild card,” Painter said. “He didn't play in Italy (in August) because he was hurt. He's a talented guy that can dribble, pass, and shoot. Where he gets into that mix as a four (power forward) or five (center) could add a lot of depth. Jay is probably our most talented player on our team (and) I think that is a big statement.”
Donnie Hale (6-8, 221 pounds, redshirt freshman forward)
“Donnie has done a very good job of bringing energy and rebounding,” Painter said. “He has really surfaced as the guy that will play at the four for us. The best thing that Donnie did was get himself in shape (last year). He got stronger, he got bigger and he's in better shape. Now he can bring some energy. Last year it was overwhelming for him.”
A.J. Hammons (7-0, 280 pounds, freshman center)
“A.J. gives us a space-eater,” Painter said. “He's a talented kid in terms of being able to pass, being able to block shots, and understanding what's going on. A.J. is going to be a really good player for us. The question for him is when?”
Rapheal Davis (6-5, 211 pounds, freshman guard)
“Rapheal is just a guy that can put the ball in the basket,” Painter said. “He is slowly, but surely learning other aspects of the game and our system. He's really competed and he's played hard and been competitive. He's put a lot of time into his game and he keeps wanting more.”
Ronnie Johnson (6-0, 170 pounds, freshman guard)
“Ronnie has done a good job in terms of giving us a steady guy with the basketball and making good decisions,” Painter said. “But also being a threat to score the ball. I think that he has a chance to make a real impact on our team and our league.”