I remember last season when Purdue guard Lewis Jackson sat in front of the media after a game and said the Boilermakers could make a run at a national championship.
Purdue didn’t have forward Robbie Hummel after he suffered his second ACL injury. But the task was doable. If any Purdue team could do it, that one could.
That was still a bold statement by Jackson.
See, I like guys like that who can make statements. Guys who have the guts to go out on a limb like that.
Last Saturday Purdue went to work on its brand-spanking-new basketball court at Mackey Arena.
After practice, I ask Jackson, “You made some comments last season that you thought Purdue could make a run at some championships. Do feel like you’re in position to do it this year?”
I was kind of shocked by his response.
I mean, it’s only October.
“I think so,” Jackson said.
“We have to do it by a team committee,” he said.
“Last year you look at our top two guys (JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore), we got a lot out of those guys,” he said.
Is that right? They only added 30 to 40 points a game.
“But we bring everybody else back,” Jackson went on to say. “We know what to expect, but now we have to be more efficient on offense and buckle down on defense so that we can make that run.”
And that’s what makes me confident Purdue is still on the right track. The confidence that Jackson has impresses me. And they all know what’s going on and they got it together in terms of knowing the adjustments that need to be made to make things work.
They realize things are going to be different without Johnson and Moore, but that it’s not the end of the world.
“You can’t replace them with one guy or two guys,” Hummel said. “It will be more of a replacement by committee.”
And the group of guys the Boilermakers have to fill that void is promising.
Former Danville standout Travis Carroll was able to see minutes last season and will bring a year of experience to the table.
Obviously, Hummel and Jackson and Kelsey Barlow are important pieces of the puzzle, but I’ll be perfectly honest when I saw that DJ Byrd is just as important, if not more, to this Purdue team.
When the Boilermakers went into the NCAA Tournament last year, I said that Byrd was the “X-factor” for Purdue.
And I think he’ll still be that guy this season.
I remember watching him play at North Montgomery. He was impressive, nailing three-pointers while falling out of bounds.
But you never know how a guy will transform into a Division I basketball player in the Big Ten.
I’d say Byrd transitioned just fine. He’s fitting in very well and he’s making a difference.
He’s not dropping 10,000 points like he did in high school, but he’s that guy that can be open and hit a big shot when the defense has their focus on a guy like Hummel – last year it was obviously Johnson and Moore.
He’s Purdue’s X-factor.
The Boilermakers have a sense of confidence heading into this season. And why wouldn’t they when they have the group they have?
“We don’t get consumed with what we don’t have,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said, talking about Moore and Johnson. “They’re great players, but we’ve lost great players before.”
Follow Jim Johnson on Twitter @JimJohnsonWIRE and email him at email@example.com