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February 15, 2013
When Matt Painter looks at how this season's unfolded - the Boilermakers are 12-13 and battling consistency issues all over the floor - he looks back at last spring wishing his efforts to add a late signee or two had paid off.
"We left the spring last year knowing we needed to add a couple guys in our backcourt, just from a decision-making standpoint and a skill standpoint," Painter said. "We were close on a couple guys. They wouldn't have been saviors, but they'd have given us more depth, they would have helped us make free throws and open shots, just basic things. We weren't able to do that, and that hurt us."
Painter didn't cite any such targets by name, but one example would have been fifth-year Wright State transfer Julius Mays, a Marion native who seemed very close to joining the college program he'd long aspired to be part of, before Kentucky came along and signed him.
Mays has been a key player for the Wildcats, whose more talented young points have struggled. He's playing 32 minutes per game, averaging 9.3 points and shooting 38 percent from three-point range and 83 percent from the foul line.
After Purdue came away from the spring empty-handed, Painter was concerned, but hopeful.
"The thing I didn't think we'd be affected by by not signing those guys would be if our guys were mature and played like mature players," he said. "We haven't done that, and it's come back to bite us. Now, when you have guys who are making mistakes, they need to sit and watch. I don't care what class they're in. They need to sit and watch. When they don't and they continue to play, on a subconscious level, they think it's OK what they're doing.
"You try to explain to them, 'These habits are leading to losses,' but they continue to play. It's been a difficult thing for us to get them to understand how hard they have to play and how hard it is to play organized basketball at both ends."
Purdue will look for help again this spring. It already has.
Painter will undoubtedly be looking for intangibles in any late signee he targets.
Friday, a day before his Purdue team traveled to play No. 1 Indiana, Painter used one of the Hoosiers' seniors as an example of what he's looking for in a player.
"When I offered Jordan Hulls a scholarship, people laughed at me, not just in the state of Indiana but a lot of other people," Painter said of the former Bloomington South High School star and Indiana Mr. Basketball. "Then, Indiana offered him a scholarship also. And no one's laughing today. There isn't a person out there laughing today, because he's a worker.
"He's what it's about, because ... he's a 12-month guy and that's what I really stress. We need more 12-month guys. Those types of guys, it gets contagious, because when you walk into a program and there are players like E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel, sure they're great players, but they're also hard workers and they put in a lot of time. They have the work ethic Jordan Hulls does."
Painter on the play of big man Sandi Marcius at Illinois: "It was great to see him come in and play hard and do some good things. With that said, Travis Carroll had a couple breakdowns in the game, but he's probably been the best in terms of his attitude and an effort with just a day-to-day work ethic of anyone we have. It's just a shame for him he's stuck in between spots in terms of the 4 and the 5 and he plays behind A.J. Hammons. Beside that game the other night, Travis has been great. But Sandi came in and gave us a lift and some life, and that's what we need."
Purdue would have to scratch and claw to get itself into such a position, but Painter was asked Friday of the importance it would hold if his team could make a postseason tournament like the NIT or College Basketball Invitational.
"Any time you have a young team and you can play extra games .... it's a positive, because you want to get as much experience as possible," Painter said. "In terms of talking to our players about it, I really don't. I'm just trying to get them to play hard. That's really been my focus.
"Any games we can get ... that definitely helps for the future."
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