WEST LAFAYETTE – Jay Simpson is an intriguing prospect for Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter. The freshman forward has been called the most talented player on the Boilermaker roster by his coach, yet an injury and lack of conditioning has caused Simpson to begin this season way behind the plethora of candidates vying for playing time along the front court for Painter.
In Purdue's season-opening exhibition game against Montevallo on Tuesday, Simpson played just nine minutes, missed both of his shot attempts and had as many fouls (two) as he did rebounds.
“We've got to get Jay in better shape,” Painter said. “He's a talented offensive player.”
According to the eighth-year coach, Simpson can “dribble, pass, and shoot,” but he needs to learn patience when given an opportunity.
“He seems to corkscrew a jumper up right as he walks into scrimmages and games,” Painter said. “He's got to learn to get into the flow a little bit, but if he's not in shape, he can't stay out there for long periods of time.”
In that regard, the 6-foot-9 Simpson is making strides. Painter said that Simpson has “lost about 25 pounds” and is currently around 254 pounds. However, he won't play a second, per Painter's instructions, if he isn't at 250 pounds for Purdue's regular season-opening game on Nov. 9 (against Bucknell).
“He's moving in the right direction with his weight,” Painter said.
Purdue has six candidates vying for jobs at either the power forward or center spot and only Jacob Lawson (eight minutes vs. Montevallo) and Travis Carroll (nine) played similar minutes as Simpson on Tuesday. With Lawson being a sophomore and Carroll a junior, neither of them are legitimate candidates to redshirt and unclog that logjam up front. But Painter said that Simpson probably isn't a candidate to sit this season either.
“I don't think that we'll redshirt any of them,” Painter said. “That doesn't mean that thought can't change. Jay is probably the candidate in theory, but he just gives you something that other guys don't have.”
Again, Painter is swayed by not just Simpson's size, but his skill level for a player that big, which could create match-up problems for any team in the country.
“He just gives you something,” Painter reiterated. “He can shoot three's, he can drive the ball, he can score in the post a little bit, and he has a little bit of versatility.”