This has been a tough couple of years for Purdue's basketball program...and while too many Purdue fans have laid blame at the feet of the Senior class, you won't hear me do that.
A few years ago, Painter had a few recruiting misses...make no mistake, Terone Johnson wasn't one of them. Out of Indianapolis, North Central, Johnson was the 51st-best player in the nation according to Rivals. In high school, his ability to use his strength helped him a great deal as he would post up smaller players and simply out-muscle competition on the other end. And as his opponents got sick of getting beaten up in the post and tired out, he would pop out and hit long range balls. He chose Purdue over Butler and Cincinnati.
While at Purdue, TJohn has been tough to watch at times because he relies so heavily on the tear drop shot. It was his bread and butter early on in his career, but this season, he hasn't leaned on it as heavily. He's been a sound ball handler and someone that Painter has trusted to execute...I'll readily admit that when he lowers his shoulder and dribbles into the lane, I do break things in my home...but I've never questioned his effort. He's been a starter for three plus seasons of his four. He showed flashes of brilliance early in his career on defense, and worked hard in the off season to trim down to help his quickness...but NCAA rules changes hurt him as much as anyone on this team this season. This year, he's clearly struggled on defense on the ball as he's tried to adapt to the no-contact up top method in which officials are now calling the game. He's hovered around shooting 40% from the floor during his four years and has played more than 20 minutes/game in three of his four seasons.
Johnson's left-leaning three pointer, that sent the Penn State game into in improbably overtime earlier this season, is one of his most-memorable games.
Travis Carroll was a center when he played at Danville HS in Indiana. He was a three-star player according to rivals after a Sophomore season in which he averaged 20/13, Painter offered him...and he quickly accepted the offer. Carroll was tough to guard in high school because of his shooting range and long arms. He played almost exclusively with his back to the basket, but popped out on teams that packed in their zone to counter him.
After his Freshman year, rumors swirled that he had been working hard to make himself physically stronger...and battling a beefed up Bade and super-skilled JJ in practice lit a bit of a fire under him. Unfortunately, we didn't witness a Steve Sheffler physique ever during his time at Purdue, but Carroll did exactly what was asked and to this date is hardly ever out of position. That said, he's struggled with the athleticism of opposing bigs and as players flirt with the 7 foot mark, the 6'9" Carroll has struggled on the glass against these guys.
After JJ graduated, it looked like Purdue would lean heavily on Carroll; his minutes almost doubled in JJ's wake. But, Painter has used him as a match-up guy and, as I said, Carroll has always been a smart player who does what he's supposed to, but now, it's typically in very quick stanzas.
Carroll's Dad is a big guy, and when Travis grew to 6'9" as a Sophomore in HS, it was easy to see why Painter liked him so much. Unfortunately, he was just a bit of an early bloomer...and that's probably his biggest flaw. Without overwhelming size, or athleticism, it's tough to be a 5 in the best basketball conference in America. Carroll's shooting percentage for his career is right around 55%...and he's always been solid from the baseline; especially when teams sag off of him...but he's not much of a threat from three point range.
Sterling Carter was recruited by smaller schools in the Northwest out of high school...he landed at Pacific before transfering to Seattle. During both of his stops his quickness and ability to shoot the three were his calling cards. He came to Purdue this year...and was very effective. Purdue needed Senior leadership, and he led with solid defensive effort and, according to practice reports, worked hard in practices as well.
Carter sold out for the Boilers...and the chance to play in the B1G. He took advantage of IU's poor zone defense and went absolutely crazy for 19 points, many from deep. His average points/game were just above 4...So on the biggest stage, at least this season, for Purdue, Carter delivered. I think he'll be fan favorite with Purdue fans for years to come...and maybe, more importantly, IU fans will always remember his performance that made their Hoosiers look simply foolish for leaving him open. Carter worked his way into the starting line-up before tearing his ACL a few weeks ago, sadly.
Lastly, but surely not least, is Errick Peck. Peck was in Kelsey Barlow's class at Cathedral in Indianapolis. At 6'6", he was a bit of a tweener. He had offers from Butler, Evansville and Mizzou St...but chose to pay his own way and get his education at the Ivy League's Cornell. At Cornell, he was a solid contributor and started as a RS Senior. After transferring to Purdue, he came off of the bench. BUT, he made an impact very early. In the home opener, Peck hit a three- his only attempt that night versus NKU that led to an improbably Purdue victory.
Peck has shot just over 35% from three this season and has earned his way into the starting line-up...as he's been a stable, calming force for the Freshman and Sophomore-dominated Boilers. I met him earlier this year and asked him about school...he told me it was pretty easy. As a masters candidate, he isn't really a full-time student...and I believe does not have class every day. Conversely, he told me that basketball was surprisingly-difficult for him at this level as his size wasn't exploited in the Ivy League as much as it has been in the blocks in the B1G. If you've every talked to Peck, you were probably like me- very impressed with him as a person...I'm positive that he'll do something with his two degrees from Cornell and Purdue...but if he wants to, he could probably go into broadcasting as he has a great voice, is astoundingly-articulate and is obviously intelligent. Painter did a great job not letting Peck slip away a second time...offering him a one-year schollie for this season. Peck was such a program guy that he dropped his FT percentage nearly 20 points just to be part of the awful free throw shooting extravaganza that is Purdue basketball. (I laugh in order to keep myself from crying.)
One more thing...
I reached out to Purdue's basketball SID earlier this week and asked if Jay Simpson would be honored tomorrow with the Senior class. Afterall, he's been in the program longer than half of this Senior class! I was told he will not be honored tomorrow after the game...BUT, since he's planning on studying until he gets his degree in '16, Simpson will be honored with his classmates in two years when RayDay, RonJon, Hammons (if he's still here), and walk-ons Toyra and McKeeman (if they decide to keep playing). Purdue's athletic department is handling Simpson's situation brilliantly so far...I'm glad to see they're honoring his scholarship through graduation...something they do not have to do by rule...but something they absolutely should be doing.
The athletic department will need to commission the NCAA for use of an extra scholarship (if the funds are available) should Purdue find themselves in the position to fill the max of 13 roster spots. As of right now, they'll be well-under that number in the next two seasons.
According to GBI, Painter is looking for a good fit for Senior transfer next year again. That player, whomever he may be, will be the only scholarship Senior next season unless Beshears is awarded one.
There's really are very few things that are better than seeing player graduate from your alma mater who represents the university well after he graduates. Obviously, it's a great day when those players are guys like Hummell who had great careers, won a ton of games AND are truly student athletes. TJohn has scored over 1,100 points with at least two games left...a number that puts him in pretty elite company in the program's history...and he's also been a third team all-conference guy a few times.
I'm happy that he and his three classmates all are Boilermakers.