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April 9, 2014

Painter preaches 'fight again' at banquet

After a season that didn't go as planned with a last-place finish in the Big Ten and a second consecutive losing season, Morgan Burke and Matt Painter talked about handling adversity but maintaining the fight in Purdue's postseason banquet Wednesday.

In the event, which lasted about two hours, Painter admitted the season was "very, very frustrating" after the Boilermakers could never find consistency with a largely young roster.

"Nobody wants to be here. You can go put the covers over your head and feel sorry for yourself or you can learn from it," Painter said, speaking to his team and the group inside the Purdue Student Union banquet hall. "You can become a better man because of it and you can help people as you go along from the experiences that you had.

"It's hard to be good. It just is. It's hard to make sacrifices. It's hard when things get tough, what do you do and that's who you are when adversity sets in. When we met with Jesse Jackson a couple years ago and he spoke to our team for 15 minutes … the one thing that really stuck with me was that champions always get off the canvas. You don't make an excuse. You get up and fight again."

AD Burke also referenced how "heartbreak" can teach young men lessons. Admittedly lessons that don't want to be learned, "skills" that aren't nearly as much fun as winning, he said. But what he considers valuable skills.

"It's in learning how to deal with that adversity, disappointment, that the success ultimately comes," he told the players. "All of understand that life does not always reward our hard work the way we want it to be rewarded. But as student-athletes, I think we learn and figure out that you have to get on to the next play, next game and next moment, and that's something you'll carry with you for a lifetime."

It's a tool that the returning players for would rather not have to worry about for 2014-15.

Painter said it'll be crucial moving forward for his team to focus on the little things like free throws, loose balls, box-out assignments and following a scouting report.

He doesn't think talent was the reason Purdue managed to win only 15 of its 32 games last season. It was attitude, work ethic and decision-making.

"If you don't like the hole you're in, stop digging and start fighting," he said.

Handing out the awards
Terone Johnson took home the team's biggest honor for the second consecutive season, being voted MVP by his teammates.

Johnson, a guard, averaged a team-high 12.0 points per game in his final season.

"Even though we didn't have the season we could have had, just coming from my teammates, naming me the Team MVP … it was a pretty good honor," Johnson said.

He said he voted for A.J. Hammons.

Fellow senior Travis Carroll also got a special award, the first Tom Reiter Award given to the individual who exemplifies the value of being a true Boilermaker. Reiter, the longtime coach and administrator, died in January.

"I wasn't expecting anything, so getting that award - especially for a high-character guy like Tom, being around our program like he was - is unbelievable for me," Carroll said.

In other awards: Hammons got the Rebound Award and Play Hard Award, Sterling Carter earned the Courage Award and Mr. Hustle Award and walk-on Jon McKeeman won the Lambert Award for highest GPA the last two semesters.

Words of advice
Most of the seniors included in their speeches words specifically directed at the returning players.

Carter's may have been the most passionate, urging them to "do what you guys are supposed to." He reminded them that hard work would pay off as he said he did for him, eventually getting more playing time in his only season at Purdue. He told the youngsters not to take the experience for granted.

Johnson, too, made sure to tell his teammates to stay focused on their goals.

Carroll thinks that's important, too.

"I think just using every opportunity that they can towards their goal and realizing that literally every single play in a basketball game can be the difference" will be key, he said. "Say you lose by one point. Maybe that bad shot you took with 18 minutes left in the first half could be the game right there. So you have to treasure every possession you get."

Seizing the opportunity
After sitting through three previous banquets, Carroll knew what it was about. And when he got his chance to give a senior speech, he didn't waste it.

The coaches who gave him all he could handle over his career were going to get roasted.

In the funniest speech of the night, Carroll delivered a wide-ranging assault that he'd seen done so well by previous teammates, especially Ryne Smith, who was at the banquet to support his good buddy.

"With Sterling and Errick, I don't think they realized the whole thing. Then Terone, I thought he had a subpar performance, little disappointed," Carroll said, smiling.

But Carroll, who was the first senior to speak, came out blazing.

He told the story of how he'd planned to go on a trip to Arizona with his family during his freshman year - kind of a last family vacation because his sister had just gotten a job - but Painter told him he couldn't go because he had to stay for Maymester.

"So I canceled the trip. It was fine. It was only about $500," said Carroll, tongue firmly planted in cheek. "I was just able to go to Arizona for the first time in nine years."

He started with assistant coach Greg Gary saying, "very good coach" but then quickly took a turn. He said Gary would cuss players out but wouldn't raise his voice, so he thanked the coach for "cussing me out without everybody else hearing." (For the record, Gary approached Carroll afterward and made sure a nearby reporter heard him playfully deny such instances.)

He called out Brandon Brantley for holding in the post in practice, hitting players "unbelievably hard for no reason" and never calling a foul.

Carroll also played bitter about being able to go to a bunch of nice restaurants as part of the team, helping him develop "really expensive taste" only now to "have no income" to support it.

In the rest of his speech, which he made to sure to note wasn't as long as his senior day one, he also thanked trainers for his "body-builder-like physique."

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