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October 3, 2013

Shooting key to Purdue success; Painter on freshmen





Purdue was held back offensively last season by many different issues, the most glaring of which was its struggles to shoot from the perimeter.

The Boilermakers were a 32-percent shooting team from three-point range last season and that was with one of the most productive shooters it's had in recent years, D.J. Byrd, who's now gone.

So why will this year be better?

For one thing, Coach Matt Painter points to the additions of freshman Kendall Stephens and fifth-year transfer Sterling Carter - "He and Kendall have really given us that dimension to shoot the basketball we desperately needed," Painter said - in his backcourt as a step in the right direction.

But much more, the coach hopes, will, also.

"Our decision-making and shot selection were poor (last season), especially in non-conference. We got better in conference play," Painter said Thursday. "Adding Sterling and Kendall will help us in that area. We have other guys who are capable, but it's about them taking wide-open (shots). We have guys who'll shoot a good percentage if they'll take wide-open ones as opposed to contested ones, especially early in the shot clock. That's an important piece for our team."

It's especially important for a team that'll likely again run its offense heavily through the post, where the Boilermakers are counting on sophomore A.J. Hammons to be its offensive pillar and for Jay Simpson to contribute down low also.

"We should have some rhythm jump shots coming from good post play," Painter said. "We have two big guys down there who can score the ball with their back to the basket. A lot of people don't have any. It's going to be important for us to be able to play out of post doubles and play off guys sagging and sinking and just being able to knock down rhythm shots. It's something we'll put a lot of time into throughout the season but it still a matter of us having guys capable of shooting better percentages who just have to take a better shot."

Throughout last season, Painter talked about the need for "12-month" players in his program. The time has come now that preseason practice is underway to discover whether or not the message resonated with those returning.

"We've had some guys improve in terms of just making an open shot," Painter said. "I think Ronnie Johnson's the one guy that stands out the most to me, but it's something that has to continue. Once you get into the grind of long practices and going through midterms, do you keep working on your game? Do you keep putting time into just making open shots? That's something we're going to need to be able to do."

So far, so good: Since the opening of practice Saturday morning, Painter has seen a group that was able to hit the ground running more than in years past due to new NCAA rules allowing for what amount to summer practices.

"Our ability to have the workouts in the summer has really helped us, having five new guys, not counting (redshirt freshman) Jay Simpson," Painter said. "Just to be able to have some workouts, be familiar with terminology and the things we do on offense and defense, it's really helped our efficiency in practice.

"I think our effort's been good. I think we have some guys who've never been through it and it's been tough on their bodies, but we were able to take a day off yesterday, then we'll practice today and tomorrow, then have three days off for fall break. It'll be good to let them get away a little bit, then get back into the grind for a long season. I've been pleased to this point, but we have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball and embracing the physicality of the game, but it's been a pretty good first couple practices."

Painter on Smotherman: Painter said freshman Basil Smotherman will play both frontcourt spots for Purdue, his fastest path to the floor being on defense.

"That's what will get him on the court," Painter said, "just being simple on the court and taking what's given to him (on offense), but defensively being able to rebound for us and being able to defend and put pressure on the ball, it's going to be key for us."

Painter on Bryson Scott: "Bryson Scott gives us quickness and athleticism and he's very competitive. He'll play both slots for us, the 1 and the 2. When he has angles or numbers, he's very aggressive and we want him to be. What he has to learn is that when angles aren't there or numbers aren't there, he has to put people on defense and be able to play in the halfcourt. He has a chance to be a really good defensive player. He can really put pressure on the ball and move his feet and keep people in front of him."

Painter on Stephens: "Kendall is probably a little bit behind because of conditioning because he sprained his ankle, but that doesn't mean that in two weeks he can't move in front of a lot of people, because he brings us something some of them simply don't have. He can move and he can shoot and he has range. He's good in motion and can move without the basketball. But he's not 100-percent yet. You can tell he doesn't have that pop because of that sprained ankle.

"But I've been pleased with his effort in practice. He hasn't backed down. He's mixed up and has been physical at times. ... He's trying his best to embrace the physicality of our practice."






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