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April 4, 2013

How the freshmen might fit

Purdue won't be as young next season, but it will need freshmen to contribute once again.

The Boilermakers' crop of newcomers probably isn't complete, as Purdue has recruited seriously for late signees, but its three incoming early signees - guards Bryson Scott and Kendall Stephens and forward Basil Smotherman - could all have a chance to be significant contributors right away.

Here, GoldandBlack.com takes a way-too-early, wildly speculative look at where each could potentially fit in next season, listed alphabetically.

It should be noted that all newcomers' prospective newcomers' ability to contribute right away, obviously, by their ability to learn and acclimate to the college game and college life quickly.

With that bit of obviousness out of the way …

Bryson Scott
Projection: Scott at the very least could be in position to log significant minutes in the Boilermaker backcourt, where Matt Painter lamented a dearth of viable options throughout much of this past season. Scott was recruited to play point guard, but his game is such that he should be able to just as soon play off the ball in a shooting guard's type role, and that versatility undoubtedly ups his value.

What he can bring: The 6-foot-1 guard was a 2,000-point scorer in high school, so scoring has always been his thing, mostly due to his ability to get to the basket and finish around the basket. But it's not been his his only thing. Scott was a well-rounded player in high school and will walk in the door at Purdue in June with a college-ready body. Physically, he'll measure up. His intensity and well-known work ethic - don't anticipate Scott battling freshman timidity - will be a much, much, much welcomed addition and his demeanor and physical tools are tailor-made for Purdue's man-to-man defensive pressure.

Questions: Sometimes, Scott's live-wire intensity and competitiveness got the best of him in his high school career. As a freshman, things won't always go his way. How he handles it could go a long way in determining how successful he is, especially early.

Basil Smotherman
Projection: The 6-7, 220-pound forward is athletic and versatile enough to potentially fill a couple different roles in the frontcourt or on the wing. Time will tell what opportunities he can create for himself, but he's a different sort of player from what Purdue otherwise has right now.

What he can bring: The freshman might be Purdue's best overall athlete from the day he enrolls, a combination of size and athleticism for a wing player that, again, Purdue doesn't otherwise have. He may be versatile enough to be a defensive menace capable of guarding multiple positions. As he's come into his own as a player in the past six or seven months especially, he's really embraced the "dirty work" portions of basketball, which he'll absolutely need to do at the next level, where he might be able to help the Boilermakers most right away by defending, rebounding and running the floor.

Questions: On paper, the biggest question might just be where he fits in. Smotherman might fit best as a "stretch 4" who might be able to face up opposing power forwards and use his athleticism and emerging perimeter skills to create an advantage. Or he could play as a straight-up wing. It just remains to be seen, but Smotherman's athleticism and versatility might be plusses no matter where he plays.

Kendall Stephens
Projection: Provided his surgically repaired shoulder is in suitable condition, Stephens would project to vie for a major role considering his ability to shoot the basketball, obviously a sore spot for the Boilermakers coming out of the 2012-13 season.

What he can bring: On paper, Stephens is the most gifted jump-shooter Purdue will have on its roster next season, one of the better shooters in his class nationally and one with an advanced understanding of how to free himself for open shots, though that gets much more challenging at the college level. Defensively, Purdue likes his potential, because of the 6-6 guard's tremendous length, but strength will be an area he'll seek to improve.

Questions: Really, there is one that trumps all others: His health. Stephens underwent surgery during the season to repair the torn labrum in his right shoulder. By every account he's on pace to be fully recovered in time for his June enrollment, but that's still a long way off. And if he is 100-percent, where will his conditioning be after a long recovery? When in tip-top shape, size and strength are the areas Stephens will need to make progress in, but he's come a long way in recent years and may not be that far off for the role he'll be best suited to play.

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