Purdue basketball will once again head into the 2013-14 season with an abundance of youth. After last year's squad saw a team being led by only two seniors, Purdue's roster will be made up of ten freshmen and sophomores, two fifth year senior transfers and a junior walk-on. So once again Purdue will be forced to rely heavily on a senior starter, with this year's guy being Terone Johnson (compared to D.J. Byrd last year).
While Johnson has seen consistent playing time since he's arrived to West Lafayette, Johnson didn't actually begin starting until late in 2012 when Kelsey Barlow was dismissed from the team. Johnson took full advantage of the additional playing time, quickly becoming the second scoring option behind senior Robbie Hummel. The high point of the season for the sophomore was Purdue's road trip to Ann Arbor, where Johnson put up a season high 22 points in a 14 point upset of #11 Michigan.
After the departure of Hummel, Barlow and Ryne Smith, Purdue was looking to Terone Johnson and D.J. Byrd to anchor the team heading into the 2012 season. While Johnson emerged as a viable scoring threat at the end of his sophomore season, he still yielded an atrocious 43.5% from the free throw line and had only made 30% of his three point attempts in his first two seasons. In the vein of Lewis Jackson, Johnson had developed a game heavily dependent on his ability to drive to the rim. Also like Jackson, teams realized they could play off of him because he couldn't convert from outside and therefore limited Johnson's effectiveness.
Johnson went into the off-season looking to work on his shooting and spent a considerable amount of extra time in the gym working on his shot. While it wasn't perfect, Johnson saw major strides last season. The junior saw his free throw shooting rise from 44% to 62% and improved his three point shooting to almost 35%. While Johnson started slow in Big Ten conference play, Johnson exploded down the stretch and started to show off the potential everyone has been talking about. It seemed like Johnson finally flipped the switch, with his best game being an impressive 32 point outing where he effortlessly lit up Michigan in a near upset.
Now heading into 2013-14 Johnson will be the only upperclassmen starting and will be heavily relied on as both the primary scoring option and the team leader. At times last season both D.J. Byrd and Johnson seemed to not take accountability as the teams leaders and this will need to change heading into the season if Purdue wants to improve from a disappointing 2012-13 season. Johnson is once again using the off season to work on improving his shot, hoping to prevent defenses from playing off of him like they have in the past. If Johnson is able to establish a presence from outside then he could very well be one of the best players in the conference. Johnson has already showcased the ability to drive to the rim at will, if defenses have to play him tight on the perimeter it would only make it easier for Johnson to get open looks inside.
There are plenty of questions for the Boilermakers heading into 2013 and how well Terone Johnson performs is the key to Purdue bouncing back and returning to the NCAA Tournament. The Indiana native will be relied on as the team's primary scoring option, as well as the team's leader. If Johnson can continue to develop his outside shot, improve his free throw shooting and emerge as the team's leader, Purdue should be in for an entertaining and much improved 2013-14 season. If Johnson struggles again from outside and doesn't take control of the team then it could be another long season for the Boilermakers. Regardless, Purdue's season will be heavily influenced by the performance of the team's only senior starter.