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February 25, 2013

Setting an example

Rapheal Davis is only a freshman, but it's becoming clear that he's an emerging leader for Purdue not only in the years to come, but in the present, too.

After Purdue's thrashing of Northwestern Sunday night, a game in which Davis scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 19 minutes, the rookie forward was asked about his leadership and mentioned how he'd been urging teammates to put in extra shooting time during the week last week and how it might have paid off against the Wildcats.

"If you're a good basketball player, it's really kind of like breathing," Coach Matt Painter said. "You should do those things naturally because you love to play the game and you're smart enough to understand that making free throws and making open shots is going to help the team and help yourself.

"The fact you have to ask other guys to go with you is encouraging for Rapheal, but disappointing for some other guys. But that's what we have to do, find more Rapheal Davis' and get away from some people for who this isn't their passion."

For Davis, basketball certainly is a passion.

He's so often been noted for putting in time, whether it's the extra one-on-one shooting work he puts in with coaches or any other such thing. Hours before the Northwestern game tipped off, he was on Keady Court shooting three-pointers with assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry.

Throughout the season, Davis has been one of the few players lauded for his commitment and work ethic in a season in which both have been in constant question around his team collectively.

"He's bought in to what the coaches want and that's one of the reasons he's playing so much," junior Terone Johnson said. "He's a Purdue type of guy, a blue-collar guy."

Terone Johnson said Davis has been the real thing this season with his investment and not just sticking out because others have been lacking in those areas.

"Some other guys are trying to do it but haven't bought in as much as he has," he said. "That's definitely part of why he's playing more. Also, he's worked on his game through the course of the season and gotten better and better and better."

In Big Ten games, Davis is averaging 21.4 minutes, fifth most on the team, and he's started nine of 14 games when Purdue opens with a smaller lineup with the 6-foot-5 Davis at power forward. If effort is reflected in rebounding, consider that the freshman is averaging 3.9 in Big Ten games this season, third-highest average on the team as a guard-type usually matching up against bigger players.

Davis has had his ups and downs on the floor, though he's often found ways to be productive, but it's the example he's tried to set for teammates that's been an important contribution.

"This season we have so many good leaders with the upperclassmen that talk to us," Davis said, "so really just with my work ethic and people seeing what I do and what Coach Painter talks about. Hopefully people pick up on it."

Purdue will hope that example is followed.

"If he can get other people to fit his mold, then the future is looking bright for Purdue," senior D.J. Byrd said. "... His freshman year, he hasn't been as vocal - you wouldn't really expect a freshman to be - but I think next year and this offseason will be a great time for him to show his leadership qualities, both on the court and vocally."

Or as Painter puts it, "He's been very consistent in terms of playing hard and working on his game. You can't have enough people that care."

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