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May 24, 2013
In an ordinary year, Purdue's players would be scattered right now, May being the one break - if there ever is such a thing - in the year-round demands of the college basketball calendar.
But this isn't an ordinary offseason for Purdue, which just weathered the sort of season it's unaccustomed to, its first losing season in more than half a decade.
And so its players were required by Coach Matt Painter to remain on campus.
It might seem on its surface to be a punishment. Players say otherwise.
"I haven't heard any complaints from anybody about being here," senior Terone Johnson said Friday morning. "We all know that we need it. That's something Coach Painter stressed when he told us we had to be here. I don't think anybody who played last year or didn't play liked seeing what happened. It's about turning it around now and being here is just part of it."
Friday morning, Purdue's players went through a conditioning session that began at 6 a.m. That has not been the norm; Friday's workout was an early one so that it could simply be gotten out of the way quickly in advance of Memorial Day weekend.
But the work has been daily, as Boilermaker players have sought to make the most of time they'd have otherwise mostly had to themselves.
Last season, Painter was vocal about the need for "12-month" players, something players have to become on their own. This spring, the coach made it mandatory.
But again, no complaints, players say.
"It's not a punishment," sophomore Rapheal Davis said. "I think most everybody wanted to stay and put in the work and take classes in the summer so they don't have to worry about it during the school year. Everybody knows we need to put in the work and that staying together will help make us stronger."
Purdue's chemistry in 2012-13 was not exactly its strong suit, as was plainly obvious, as it broke in so much youth and inexperience.
This month could be a step toward remedying that issue, while the natural progression of time would as well.
"It's making us become more of a family and making us build more trust with each other and focus on things we lacked last year," sophomore point guard Ronnie Johnson said. "Like trusting each other and helping push each other through tough situations."
But trust doesn't just happen overnight.
"You have to go through adversity," Ronnie Johnson said. "We went through it last year, but we didn't handle it well. The more we're together and the more of a team we become, the more it will help us."
Time will tell how Purdue benefits from this month, which in reality will amount to an extra month of summer, when players spend most of their time working on their own or with strength coaches, as opposed to their basketball coaches.
But in the moment, they believe it will pay dividends come the fall.
"It's bringing us closer together and forcing us to be around each other all day, every day," Davis said. "It's making us more of a family, making us come together, work together and create buddies who'll take you to the gym every day. And the days you don't want to go to the gym, you have to have that person there pushing you. Everyone's just coming together as a team.
"We needed it. Last year, sometimes we went our separate ways. We're going to be together pretty much all year now, so we have to come together, become a family and stay together."
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