You can only keep something secret for so long...and Purdue's secret off-season transformation is starting to already show itself.
Months prior to the first official basketball practice, the remodeling of the limping program is starting to see the light of day. Last season was awful...no need to sugar coat it any longer. Losing regularly, losing so many times at Mackey, playing awful defense and dumb offense...this was unlike almost any season I've ever seen as a Purdue fan. No excuses- there was too much talent on that roster and on that bench to see what we saw last year.
That might not be too different from what Matt Painter told his players at their evaluations at the end of last season...but I bet he was handing out responsibility more readily. From what I've read, Painter feels a lot of responsibility for what went down...and he's told the players that they should feel that weight as well.
Those post-season conversations led to three transfers in the late Spring/early Summer. I'd assume that some guys didn't like those conversations...Check that, I'd assume all of the team didn't like those conversations. BUT, some took the chat as motivation to get moving...others took it as a reason to move on.
I didn't hear what was said...so I'm not even blaming guys for leaving. But I am giving a lot of credit to the players who stayed for how they handled it.
I'm not going to make you lazier by searching every Twitter post that has videos and quotes detailing how hard many of the players have been working. But I'll give you the gist of it.
-Terone Johnson is leaner...has a chip on his shoulder and understands the number of his days as a college basketball player are numbered.
-His brother RonJohn toured England with a non-Purdue affiliated team...met some pretty girls...and torched some opponents. He's been driving effectively and even shooting the ball well.
-AJ Hammons is still very tall...but now, he's leaner and stronger. Matty's talk was part of the reason he got motivated to get better. But also, family members told him to live up to his potential, Travis Carroll has kicked him in the ass all summer in the gym and even his new coach, Brandon Brantley has helped him work on the technical aspect of his game.
-Jay Simpson has become a gym rat...he's been called the player with the most potential on the roster by Painter...and his frontcourt counterparts believe that as well.
-Kendall Stephens has worked himself into better shape while rehabbing his post-operative shoulder...by all accounts, he can still make it rain. Purdue will need that.
RayDay continues to work hard, Bryson Scott and his fellow Freshman are bonding better than it looked like initially (some Purdue fans were worried about some early summer stuff).
I don't think there's anyone in the Purdue family that doesn't see the upcoming basketball season as a pivotal one. IU is coming off of their best season in a long time and has been beating up on Purdue for the last two seasons. That matters. I saw Purdue lose more games at Mackey last season than I had in the previous seven combined. That matters. Purdue didn't contend for the conference race...and didn't make the NCAA OR the NIT. That really matters.
Purdue has arguably the most-talented roster, from top-to-bottom (based on in-coming recruiting rankings) that the program has enjoyed in the last 15 years. Sure, it's a roster with tons of youth...but in this era of basketball, youth is only an excuse you can use for a period of weeks or months, not years.
The players and the coaches all know that the time to get better is right now. They seem to be seizing this opportunity in which no one outside of West La La is expecting anything, to prepare to do something big. I'm looking forward to seeing proof with my own eyes this fall.