In the case of Simpson, he's had a great opportunity behind him, as well as in front of him. The freshman forward spent this past season getting healthy, in shape and working on his skill development in preparation for next season.
“Jay is a talented guy,” Painter said. “We don't have anyone else like him.”
Simpson arrived in West Lafayette a year ago with a lot of promise and even more plumpness. He had injured his foot during his senior season and gained 50 more pounds than what the Purdue coaching staff would've preferred.
Painter tried to utilize the 6-foot-9 forward enough to get him in condition, but after averaging less than eight minutes per game through 10 games, Painter shut Simpson down for the season and has since applied with the NCAA for a medical redshirt season (it has not been decided upon as of yet).
“He can dribble, pass and shoot at 6-9, 250 (pounds),” Painter said. “We've just got to work with him and he's got to stay healthy.”
Earlier this month, Purdue lost returning center Sandi Marcius, as well as forward Jacob Lawson to transfers. The Boilermakers do return senior Travis Carroll, who can back up sophomore-to-be center A.J. Hammons, but at the power forward spot, Painter played an undersized Rapheal Davis a lot last season. Having a bigger body (Simpson) to use at that spot, and then moving Davis to the small forward position, would really be an added bonus for Painter's team.
“I think having Jay playing as a center and as a (power forward) will help us with that versatility,” Painter said. “We're going to have to get productive minutes out of him. It will be interesting to see, because he really causes a mismatch for centers. I see it every day at practice.”
Painter explained that an in-shape Simpson has the strength to play against bigger players in the post, but he can also take those interior players and force them to defend him out on the perimeter due to his “deceptive moves and quickness.” However, at this point in time, he still isn't in good enough condition to play extended minutes.
“If the game was half-court, Jay Simpson he is as good as any big guy that the Big Ten has next year,” Painter said. “But I don't think that the Big Ten is going to let us play half-court games. If you came to our practice and watched him in a half-court setting, he's really impressive. He just has to continue to work from a cardiovascular standpoint.”
An obstacle that Simpson faces, even after getting his weight down to an acceptable level, is that he suffers from asthma. Painter said that it is a manageable problem, but it does take discipline on Simpson's part.
“He's had asthma his whole life,” Painter said. “It's been difficult for him. But we've done some things that have helped him and he's doing a better job of keeping that under control. Him eating right and taking care of his body and having good sleeping habits, all of that ties in.”