The Naysayer on Purdue’s Past and Present
Purdue’s current roster talent is comparable to past talent.
With age comes perspective. This is a good thing. Perspective in sports allows one to evaluate different levels of talent to think about how this season’s highly anticipated team might stack up in comparison to other Purdue Boilermaker personnel.
The talent level on this season’s Purdue men’s basketball team is so very skilled—to say the least—that I felt compelled to assemble a list of players from this season compared to who might equally match them from rosters of past teams. And I have to say, looking at the comparisons, this season will shape up nicely.
A.J. Hammons – Joe Barry Carroll
I’ll begin the comparisons with the most obvious: the center position. A.J. Hammons has a wealth of potential of which he has tapped about two-thirds at this point, which was exactly where another great Boiler center, Joe Barry Carroll (1977–80), also found himself at the beginning of his senior season. Known for a bad attitude and laziness on the court (sound familiar, A.J.?), Joe Barry turned his senior year around and ended it with a trip to the Final Four in 1980. Although the Boilers were defeated by UCLA in the NCAA semi-finals, I would call a trip to the Final Four a good season.
Isaac Haas – Stephen Scheffler
In this supersized year, sophomore center Isaac Haas will also be formidable inside. Last year, Haas made some strides, but improvement needed to be made in his free-throw percentage and inside touch. If Haas could develop into a Stephen Scheffler (1987–90) prototype, then Swanigan and Hammons could be pushed out of the paint more to play power forward. Scheffler had a career shooting percentage (.685). He once said he should be shooting that well because none of his shots were from more than three feet away. That should fit right in with Haas’s range when he is in the game.
Vince Edwards – Carl Landry
As forwards, Vince Edwards, Caleb Swanigan, Basil Smotherman, Jaquil Taylor, and Grady Eifert are just oozing with offense and defense. Edwards was a tough match because of his potential. With his game much improved, he will dish it out on the opposition much like Carl Landry (2005–07) punished everyone he played against in the mid-2000s. Landry could take the ball outside and work it inside for an easy hoop, he could take the outside jumper, and he could also go to the iron with authority.
Caleb Swanigan – Russell Cross
Much-celebrated freshman Caleb Swanigan is touted as a potential one-and-done beast. In exhibition games so far, he has played well, but hasn’t had the impact that Russell Cross (1981–83) had when he came to Purdue. Cross was a great inside-out player that scored at will most games. I expect Swanigan to be a better leader on the floor than Cross but a more effective scorer once he gets into the swing of the season.
Basil Smotherman – Drake Morris; Jaquil Taylor – Keton Grant
Smotherman and Taylor play much like Drake Morris (1978–81) and Keton Grant (2007–10). Morris was an unbelievably athletic player who played the game with passion. He was a scorer, a slasher, and could get to the rim quickly and with little effort, much like Smotherman. Taylor, a highly talented freshman, reminds me of the way Grant played as a capable scorer, ball handler, and assist person.
Grady Eifert – Greg Eifert
Grady is just like his dad, Greg (1981–84)– a bull in a China shop – getting the job done with brute force. Greg also has a son, Tyler Eifert, in the NFL with the Bengals—not bad, huh?
Rapheal Davis – E’Twaun Moore
The Boilers are loaded at guard. Loaded. Rapheal Davis and transfer Johnny Hill, P.J. Thompson, Ryan Cline, Kendall Stephens, and Dakota Mathias. Davis’s defensive prowess has already earned him awards, and his scoring has improved measurably the past two seasons. E’Twaun Moore (2008–11) reminds me of Davis with his shut-down defense and shooting ability. Moore, like Davis, can take the ball to the rack with authority, too, and does in the NBA.
Johnny Hill – Ricky Hall; P.J. Thompson – Eugene Parker
The line on Hill is he is a good ball handler, a hawk on man-to-man defense, and can contribute up to 10 points per game. Ricky Hall (1981–84) was just that kind of guard, better known for his defense than offense. When he locked in on D, he would shut his man down. Thompson, a sophomore, has great potential. He plays the game with a little style, much like Eugene “The Dream” Parker (1975–78) did with his long, floppy Afro and high arching jump shots.
Ryan Cline – Matt Waddell
Cline has many of the same attributes as Matt Waddell (1992–95), a consistent jump shooter and great free thrower. Rick Mount seems an obvious pick here, but Cline might not be ready to take on that scoring load.
Kendall Stephens – Everette Stephens
Stephens needs to look no farther than to his father, Everette (1985-88), for a comparison. Let’s just hope the younger Stephens can hit long jumpers better than his dad.
Dakota Mathias – Troy Lewis
Mathias, like Edwards, will be a more explosive player this season and compares to the talents of Troy Lewis (1985–88). Lewis had a great outside touch, could handle the ball adequately enough, and played good defense. He also had a knack for rebounding.
Matt Painter – Lee Rose
Painter’s obvious choice is Gene Keady. He played for Keady. He was taught by Keady. He was an assistant under Keady. However, he should emulate Lee Rose—who, in his brief coaching career at Purdue, took the Boilers to a Final Four in 1980 in Indianapolis before departing for a South Florida gig.
These are my choices, right or wrong. I invite you to have your say in the comments below or on social media. Follow me on Twitter at @Botkin_Mike for more worthless ramblings.