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November 14, 2012

New class bolsters Boilermakers on perimeter





LISTEN: Matt Painter on ... The entire class | Bryson Scott's demeanor | Basil Smotherman's college position | Kendall Stephens' Purdue ties

Matt Painter's latest Purdue recruiting class is a perimeter-heavy one, with Bryson Scott and Kendall Stephens coming in as guards and Basil Smotherman likely to at least begin his college career playing on the wing.

The three high school seniors signed with Purdue on Wednesday as part of a class Rivals.com ranks 23rd nationally.

"I think with these three guys we have the positions we need but also it's the right fit in terms of three people that fit at Purdue," Painter said. "These guys can give us a really good chance to win not only because of their ability as basketball players but as people and their backgrounds and their families. We think we got the total package with these three guys."

Scott and Stephens are each considered top-100 recruits nationally, both of them being ranked in the top 50 at one time or another in their high school career.

Each of them might be well suited to contribute for Purdue immediately, though Stephens' senior season in high school is now in question as he probably faces surgery after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder.

When healthy, Stephens is one of the truly elite shooters in the high school class of 2013's ranks.

Purdue needs perimeter-shooting help now.

With D.J. Byrd graduating, the need will be even more pressing a year from now.

"Kendall Stephens is a guy who has made a lot of improvements as a basketball player," said Painter of Stephens, who averaged 24 points as a junior. "He can put the ball in the basket, he can shoot the ball and he has a very fluid stroke. He's worked really hard at putting the ball on the floor and improving that part of his game. He has to continue to gain positive weight and get stronger but also be functional at that. I think he has some functional strength already and he just has to continue to work in that area. We're really excited about him and his length and what he brings. He brings that big guard to your program that can really stretch the defense and always a threat."

Scott will give Purdue tremendous flexibility in its backcourt, Painter said.

The 6-1 combo guard was initially recruited with point guard in mind, but his prolific scoring acumen makes him just as logical fit to play away from the ball.

With current freshman Ronnie Johnson likely to be entrenched at point guard, Painter is intrigued with the options he might soon have.

The toughness and intensity Scott is known to play with should fit well at Purdue, also, Painter hopes.

"I think if you look at (playing) two quality point guards together in college basketball, especially in the last 10 years, it's really been successful for teams," Painter said. "Any time you have guys who can break people down off the dribble in a variety of positions it can be very tough to defend. (Scott's) pull-up and threes have both really improved. So I think with his strength and his ability to break people down he can really be a bird-dog-type defender. It will take some time but I do think he has that upside on the defensive end."

Painter had described Scott's demeanor this way: "He'll bite your head off."

"He's a very competitive player," Painter said. "He's had a couple instances where he's jumped over the fight and I think that's great because he's a competitive guy and guys like that in our program have been very successful. I embrace guys that are really competitive and I like that part of them. He's just got to make sure that he doesn't jump over the fight sometimes or get too wound up. However, that's encouraging to me because I love competitive guys.

"You'd be surprised at how many guys you get and sign and after you've had them for two or three months you wonder how much they really like basketball. I know we're getting a guy who loves to play basketball in Bryson Scott."

Stephens and Scott are the two most known commodities of the signees, though that's not to say Smotherman isn't.

It's just that the 6-foot-7 forward is still growing in more ways than one: Both physically and as a player.

The left-hander is an outstanding athlete and has shown significant progress in recent months as a defender and rebounder, while coming off a summer in which he shot the ball very well from three-point range.

He might play the wing in college, but he might also grow into the undersized power forward role Purdue has featured in recent seasons.

"I think a lot of it has to be determined on him but also on our other guys at those two positions," Painter said. "Right now, the only guy that we have that swings between the 3 and the 4 is D.J Byrd, who's going to be gone next year. We will work with (Smotherman) as more of a 3 to start with because you want to work on somebody's ball skills. We're going to be constantly working individual skill instruction with him as a perimeter guy. We'll work him into the mid-post a little bit by himself to work on those things. We're always working with somebody from the defensive standpoint of guarding both of those positions. I think that gets lost in the shuffle a little bit that if a guy can guard both, he can play both.

"Sometimes people say, 'Well can you shoot or can you post?' I'm guilty of that at times when explaining a player to people that maybe haven't seen him. If he can guard both, he can play both and we will work through the other stuff. But if you can't, then that won't happen. We'll see about the development of other people at that 4 position and see where he is in terms of his development. Bringing him in I would say we start to work with him in just total guard skills and if his body continues to morph the way I think it's going to I really think a guy like him gives us an advantage."




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