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August 21, 2012

Painter recaps Italy tour

LISTEN: Matt Painter on: experience gained in Italy | his approach to exhibition games | losing a game | starting practice in the fall | Ronnie Johnson | other point guard options | Rapheal Davis | his team's size | Terone Johnson | foul shooting

Matt Painter wanted his team to face the highest level of competition it could find during its four-game exhibition tour.

But now that the Boilermakers have returned, the coach is disappointed with the caliber of the teams they faced overseas, comparing the four teams to "low- to mid-major Division I" caliber opponents.

"We were hoping to have better competition than we did," Painter said, "and we did not."

Now, it should be noted that Purdue's inexperience, using four players with freshman eligibility extensively, and the difficulties of adjusting to a different style of game overseas were handcuffs on the visiting Americans.

"The game is different there than it is here," Painter said, referring the 24-second shot clock and different traveling rules in place during the Italy games. "That's the one thing that, for a young team, you wish was different."

But there was value, Painter said, in the Boilermakers losing a game to such a level of opponent, no matter the impediments it might have faced. Purdue lost its second game, a three-point setback to a team from Lithuania.

Normally, the Boilermaker coach despises losing. In this case, he can certainly live with it.

"The fact that we lost one of those games - it was the best team we played, but still a team that we should have beat - really brought out some of our weaknesses and some of the things we needed to work on," Painter said. "If you leave that trip 4-0, I think that's fool's gold. We come back here and we think we're a lot better than we are. Now that we lost one of those games it showcases, 'We have a lot of work to do, but yet we have a lot of potential.' That's promising."

Where Painter saw the most promise was up front, where centers Sandi Marcius, Travis Carroll and A.J. Hammons each played well - some more so than others - and redshirt freshman Donnie Hale was extremely productive, with sophomore forward Jacob Lawson showing some flashes as well, Painter said.

Purdue will have a lot of options in its frontcourt in 2012-13.

"In 20 years of coaching," Painter said, "I've never been in this position."

The only big man who didn't impress in Italy was freshman Jay Simpson. He didn't play.

Painter shot just 66 percent from the line in Italy, after shooting just 7-of-23 in its open scrimmage on campus prior to its departure.

Not good for a team looking to improve upon its 65.6-percent shooting from a season ago without its best foul shooter, Robbie Hummel.

"We didn't show we were a much better free-throw shooting team," Painter said. "We put a lot of time into it during the 10 days of practice and we emphasized it quite a bit with those guys working on their own and during individual workouts. … But we want to get the ball inside at the rim and we want to drive the basketball and we want to shoot more free throws than our opponent. I know that's a profound statement. But that's something we'll continue to do and work on.

"But the proof is in the pudding. It looked about the same to me."

Painter on Donnie Hale: "The thing Donnie did was show an ability to consistently knock down the catch-and-shoot 15- to 18-foot jump shot. He was really consistent doing that on our trip. That was a great sign. (Hummel) was a big guard. Donnie's not a guard. He's a 4 man. He's 6-8, 230. He's rebounding the ball well and running. He doesn't have the same ball skills (as Hummel), and there's nothing wrong with that. He needs to play to his strengths. Him running, rebounding and defending will take care of his scoring."

Senior D.J. Byrd, who's played the 4 for Purdue in past years, now projects mostly as a small forward/wing as the Boilermakers welcome added size to play up front, Painter said.

"We can put Byrd at that (4) spot, but it really hurts our rebounding," Painter said. "We can be more efficient there because Byrd can dribble, pass and shoot, but we're just going to get hurt too much on the glass."

Painter said freshman Ronnie Johnson has established himself as Purdue's clear-cut first option at point guard, where the Boilermakers have limited options.

After the freshman, Painter said, veterans Anthony Johnson, Terone Johnson and Dru Anthrop might platoon in the role.

Toward the end of last season, Painter backed off his long-standing defensive principle of pressuring opposing point guards full-court, because Lewis Jackson was banged up and it wasn't working anyway, among other reasons.

Painter said he does not yet know if he will work that back into his defensive game plan.

"If you look at it, we're still short on numbers," Painter said. "I think our chemistry, trips like this really help your chemistry, but they don't help your numbers, and we're a little bit thin with athleticism and quickness in our backcourt. Ronnie can put some heat some heat on people and Anthony Johnson has improved. Terone has improved in the half court.

"But we have to get established in the half court defensively in terms of leaning on our defensive principles. Right now, we're not there. If we can make some improvements there, I'll extend. And I'll extend on some dead ball. But that's a good question to ask, because I don't know if we're suited to do that with the personnel that we have. Maybe I'm wrong there. We'll look at it. We'll possibly do that but we possibly won't."





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