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September 23, 2013

Big men growing up







Physical stature has never been an issue for Purdue big men A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson, the two largest players - and two of the most important - on the Boilermaker roster heading into 2013-14.

But as both look back on their freshman years, they're quick to admit how much growing up they had to do.

It remains to be seen how it will translate to the court when practice starts this weekend, but both young big men say they have come a long way from a maturity perspective.

"Everybody always told me how good I was, but I didn't know. It was something I had to pick up on," said Hammons, an All-Big Ten freshman team selection last season.

"I understand it now."

The same understanding has clicked with Simpson, the redshirt freshman himself and teammates alike say.

"The main lesson I learned is paying attention to detail, and going hard at everything I do," Simpson said. "I will be ready once the season starts.

"It was just about going to practice and seeing other people going hard when I was just kind of going through the motions. I looked at them and I saw where I was, and it wasn't really evening out."

Ability has never been an issue for either Hammons or Simpson; urgency, energy and conditioning sometimes have been.

In that sense, both look the part, at least, of matured players, each of them having changed their bodies considerably for the better in the offseason and talked this summer about the valuable lessons learned, about unseen factors like focus, punctuality and particularly in Hammons' case, nutrition.

Each have also come to an understanding, they say, of the most important thing for all: Their own potential.

Hammons admits to being overwhelmed last year by all that was asked of him right away in his Purdue career - "I was stressed out," he said - but now says he understands why it was all asked of him and now feels like he's in a better position to handle it.

In Simpson's case, he's heard time and again his own coach, Matt Painter, implore him to turn talent into production. On more than one occasion last year, Painter routinely called Simpson's most talented player.

The long and the short of Painter's message to his two big men has been this: The only thing holding them back from being All-Big Ten players, or NBA draft picks, is themselves.

It might have taken a while, but it's a message that seems to have struck a chord.

Simpson's seen it in Hammons, being taken aback this summer when he'd receive early morning calls from Hammons looking for a workout partner.

Before, early morning anything might not have been the 7-footer's style.

"He was really lazy last year," Simpson said. "But this year he's more motivated. He saw the things he was capable of doing last year. He just wants to do better now. He's a new and improved A.J."

For Simpson's part, more goes into it.

For one thing, he's completely healthy after the residual effects of the foot he broke two springs ago forced him to redshirt after 10 games last season. For another, he feels his lifelong bout with asthma is less problematic than it's ever been.

But for yet another, Simpson talks of being "thankful" for all he's learned in the past year, sounding like a player who's gained important perspective.

Simpson said a summer spent improving his body and getting healthy has made him more athletic and able to play for longer periods of time.

For Hammons, physical improvement has been complemented by the sort of new mindset that might be even more important.

"Sometimes I let people push me around last year and I would just give up," Hammons said. "But this year, it's going to be a different story."




Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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But as both look back on their freshman years, they're quick to admit how much growing up they had to do.

It remains to be seen how it will translate to the court when practice starts this weekend, but both young big men say they have come a long way from a maturity perspective.

"Everybody always told me how good I was, but I didn't know. It was something I had to pick up on," said Hammons, an All-Big Ten freshman team selection last season.

"I understand it now."

The same understanding has clicked with Simpson, the redshirt freshman himself and teammates alike say.

"The main lesson I learned is paying attention to detail, and going hard at everything I do," Simpson said. "I will be ready once the season starts.

"It was just about going to practice and seeing other people going hard when I was just kind of going through the motions. I looked at them and I saw where I was, and it wasn't really evening out."

Ability has never been an issue for either Hammons or Simpson; urgency, energy and conditioning sometimes have been.

In that sense, both look the part, at least, of matured players, each of them having changed their bodies considerably for the better in the offseason and talked this summer about the valuable lessons learned, about unseen factors like focus, punctuality and particularly in Hammons' case, nutrition.

Each have also come to an understanding, they say, of the most important thing for all: Their own potential.

Hammons admits to being overwhelmed last year by all that was asked of him right away in his Purdue career - "I was stressed out," he said - but now says he understands why it was all asked of him and now feels like he's in a better position to handle it.

In Simpson's case, he's heard time and again his own coach, Matt Painter, implore him to turn talent into production. On more than one occasion last year, Painter routinely called Simpson's most talented player.

The long and the short of Painter's message to his two big men has been this: The only thing holding them back from being All-Big Ten players, or NBA draft picks, is themselves.

It might have taken a while, but it's a message that seems to have struck a chord.

Simpson's seen it in Hammons, being taken aback this summer when he'd receive early morning calls from Hammons looking for a workout partner.

Before, early morning anything might not have been the 7-footer's style.

"He was really lazy last year," Simpson said. "But this year he's more motivated. He saw the things he was capable of doing last year. He just wants to do better now. He's a new and improved A.J."

For Simpson's part, more goes into it.

For one thing, he's completely healthy after the residual effects of the foot he broke two springs ago forced him to redshirt after 10 games last season. For another, he feels his lifelong bout with asthma is less problematic than it's ever been.

But for yet another, Simpson talks of being "thankful" for all he's learned in the past year, sounding like a player who's gained important perspective.

Simpson said a summer spent improving his body and getting healthy has made him more athletic and able to play for longer periods of time.

For Hammons, physical improvement has been complemented by the sort of new mindset that might be even more important.

"Sometimes I let people push me around last year and I would just give up," Hammons said. "But this year, it's going to be a different story."




Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

GoldandBlack.com Mobile for your iPhone | GoldandBlack.com Mobile for your Android





Physical stature has never been an issue for Purdue big men A.J. Hammons and Jay Simpson, the two largest players - and two of the most important - on the Boilermaker roster heading into 2013-14.

But as both look back on their freshman years, they're quick to admit how much growing up they had to do.

It remains to be seen how it will translate to the court when practice starts this weekend, but both young big men say they have come a long way from a maturity perspective.

"Everybody always told me how good I was, but I didn't know. It was something I had to pick up on," said Hammons, an All-Big Ten freshman team selection last season.

"I understand it now."

The same understanding has clicked with Simpson, the redshirt freshman himself and teammates alike say.

"The main lesson I learned is paying attention to detail, and going hard at everything I do," Simpson said. "I will be ready once the season starts.

"It was just about going to practice and seeing other people going hard when I was just kind of going through the motions. I looked at them and I saw where I was, and it wasn't really evening out."

Ability has never been an issue for either Hammons or Simpson; urgency, energy and conditioning sometimes have been.

In that sense, both look the part, at least, of matured players, each of them having changed their bodies considerably for the better in the offseason and talked this summer about the valuable lessons learned, about unseen factors like focus, punctuality and particularly in Hammons' case, nutrition.

Each have also come to an understanding, they say, of the most important thing for all: Their own potential.

Hammons admits to being overwhelmed last year by all that was asked of him right away in his Purdue career - "I was stressed out," he said - but now says he understands why it was all asked of him and now feels like he's in a better position to handle it.

In Simpson's case, he's heard time and again his own coach, Matt Painter, implore him to turn talent into production. On more than one occasion last year, Painter routinely called Simpson's most talented player.

The long and the short of Painter's message to his two big men has been this: The only thing holding them back from being All-Big Ten players, or NBA draft picks, is themselves.

It might have taken a while, but it's a message that seems to have struck a chord.

Simpson's seen it in Hammons, being taken aback this summer when he'd receive early morning calls from Hammons looking for a workout partner.

Before, early morning anything might not have been the 7-footer's style.

"He was really lazy last year," Simpson said. "But this year he's more motivated. He saw the things he was capable of doing last year. He just wants to do better now. He's a new and improved A.J."

For Simpson's part, more goes into it.

For one thing, he's completely healthy after the residual effects of the foot he broke two springs ago forced him to redshirt after 10 games last season. For another, he feels his lifelong bout with asthma is less problematic than it's ever been.

But for yet another, Simpson talks of being "thankful" for all he's learned in the past year, sounding like a player who's gained important perspective.

Simpson said a summer spent improving his body and getting healthy has made him more athletic and able to play for longer periods of time.

For Hammons, physical improvement has been complemented by the sort of new mindset that might be even more important.

"Sometimes I let people push me around last year and I would just give up," Hammons said. "But this year, it's going to be a different story."






Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

GoldandBlack.com Mobile for your iPhone | GoldandBlack.com Mobile for your Android







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