football

Big or small

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Among the many targets of Purdue's introspective offseason to come might be a philosophical one: Play big or play small?
After opening the past few seasons with true post-oriented power forwards - hoping that playing big could give his teams the greatest potential to win in March - Coach Matt Painter has switched to smaller lineups in-season each of the past two years, to the benefit of his team's offense.
Whether it was moving perimeter-geared forward Robbie Hummel to the 5 the season before last or guard-like forward Rapheal Davis to the 4 this season, typically the more skill Purdue has had on the floor, the better it's been offensively.
Without the sort of best-of-both-worlds personnel like Hummel - unless big and skilled forward redshirt freshman Jay Simpson delivers immediately on the potential coaches see in him - Painter may have to choose one way or the other heading into next season.
"No question. I want to play the best players and I want to play the best way to help Purdue win," Painter said after Wednesday night's post-season banquet. "I'm really big on decision-making and taking care of the basketball and that irritated me on a lot of different fronts this year, that I didn't do a good enough job getting that across and didn't do a good enough job recruiting guys that were quite the decision-maker we need. I'll take the blame for that."
When Purdue had Hummel, it was an all-in-one deal. The 6-foot-8 three-time first-team All-Big Ten forward was rugged enough to be the Boilermakers' best rebounder, but also a sharp-shooter and the consummate "point forward" in his ability to handle the ball, pass and protect the basketball.
With the 6-5 Davis playing the 4 position this season, his penetration ability helped Purdue score, and his effort and tenacity kept the Boilermakers from losing much of anything on the boards.
As a sophomore, Davis could remain in that role or move out the wing, the role he played in high school and prep school and was recruited for, the way D.J. Byrd moved from playing mostly the 4 to playing mostly on the wing as a senior.
"But whether you're big, slender or quick, whatever you might be, we have to get guys who can think the game, whether we play big, start four guards or whatever," Painter said. "We still have to make decisions. That's really what my focus is on, both in recruiting and in helping those guys get better as players."
That will be at the focus of Purdue's recruiting considerations, both as it looks for help in the spring and assembles future recruiting classes.
Purdue's all in on recruiting for the spring. After Sandi Marcius, Jacob Lawson and Anthony Johnson transferred, it has both scholarships to play with and minutes to offer.
"We have to get a more skilled guy, in my opinion, instead of continually talking about guys getting in the gym and working on this or that," Painter said. "We have to recruit a better free throw shooter and we have to recruit a better three-point shooter. We have to recruit a better decision-maker.
"Sure, you can take guys with a lot of talent, then work on some of those things, but we've proven we've had more success in our system with guys walking in the door with a better skill set, especially at that combo forward spot, guys who can shoot the basketball and pass the basketball and really give us a versatile look that helps us offensively."
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