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June 17, 2014
The work begins
A crucial off-season for Purdue basketball began in earnest Tuesday as those returning Boilermakers and their five freshmen conducted their first set of summer workouts.
The single most important aim early on this summer for the Boilermakers will be to smoothly integrate the program's five incoming scholarship freshmen.
Big men Isaac Haas and JacQuil Taylor took the floor during the first of the three workouts pods, along with returning center A.J. Hammons, running through sets of post-specific drills.
"It was good to be out on the court again, but it was too hot in gym," Hammons joked after leaving the Mackey Arena floor, "but other than that, it was pretty physical, trying to make sure the new bigs coming in know everything. We're trying to work everything like ball screens, running the floor, rebounding, footwork. It was just the first day."
Vince Edwards then joined forwards Rapheal Davis, Basil Smotherman and Neal Beshears during the second set of drills geared toward their positions.
Lastly, guards Bryson Scott, Kendall Stephens, Dakota Mathias, Jon McKeeman and Stephen Toyra worked the last group.
Freshman P.J. Thompson is being held out of early workouts after hurting his foot at the end of his high school season, though he's close enough to being fully recovered to have logged limited minutes in this past weekend's Indiana All-Star series games.
(Walk-on Anfernee Brown remains with the team but is not on campus this summer.)
Job 1 for Purdue will be getting those freshmen up to speed.
Stephens, who logged big minutes as a freshman this past season, can relate.
"You're wide-eyed coming in and it's a lot to take in," he said. "They're a great group of kids and they'll willing to go as hard as they can to improve."
But they'll need help, notably from their team's few veterans.
Beshears, a fourth-year walk-on, is the team's only senior.
Among scholarship players, Purdue has as many freshmen as it does returnees.
The numbers alone suggest that newcomers will impact the Boilermakers' upcoming season profoundly, for better or worse.
"They all have the talent and skills enough to carry that weight," Stephens said. "We're not sure how much yet; we'll find that out during the season. But they're definitely going to be a big part of this team."
Stephens and his two classmates, Smotherman and Scott, were in that same situation this time a year ago
"You have to take in as much as you can and listen to the coaching staff. You might come in with your own ideas but when you get here, you have to really buy into the philosophies as hard as you can."
Some short clips of the big-man workout group
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