I'm a Purdue fan.
In the past that was a good thing. Then Robbie Hummel tore his ACL and possibly the best Purdue team in quite some time fell apart in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champions Duke. But no worries, we were supposed to be just as good (even better if Hummel returned to form) the next season, only for Hummel to injure the same ACL once again. I still remember first hearing the news. I was at work and promptly kicked our break room fridge.
With or without Hummel, the Boilermakers were still a good team during the entire five year period involving the Baby Boilers. The last two seasons, though, have been anything but. For every talented big man or point guard, Purdue has found a way to disappoint. For every impressive performance where they held their own against a supposedly superior team, there were the losses to teams like Northwestern and Penn State that followed. And for every dominating half or impressive streak of gameplay, well there was the rest of the game where the team looked like an entirely different thing entirely.
It makes you feel cynical at times. Every time you get a talented recruit you assume he'll struggle once he arrives on campus. For every winnable game you expect something dire to happen. For every ounce of optimism in the back of your mind you realize it's likely all for naught.
But then, occasionally, something happens that rekindles your hope. In the past it was games like playing neck and neck with an extremely talented Ohio State team down in Columbus. Last year it was nights like the Minnesota overtime thriller or the absolute domination of hated rival Indiana. Heading into the upcoming season I've started to feel more pessimistic than optimistic for the first time since Painter first arrived at Purdue. I know we have the talent, but it's at the point where I'm expecting something (anything) to go wrong.
So this weeks news of the late addition of Jon Octeus was definitely pleasant news for me.
Purdue may have missed on their big name transfer targets but they once again landed someone to fill a void on the roster. Last year it was a so-so Sterling Carter and Errick Peck, with the former starting to emerge as a team leader and offensive spark only to get knocked out for the remainder of the season. This year it's Octeus, a decent enough guard that is an alright outside shooter (36%).
The real reason why I'm excited over Octeus is the idea of him playing point guard. Bryson Scott may be a combo guard, but when asked to run the point last year it was an absolute disaster. When Matt Painter realized Ronnie Johnson was bolting out the door, he finally pulled the trigger on offering three star prospect P.J. Thompson. While fans convinced themselves he was a good get (and he might pan out), the reality seemed clear that his scholarship offer was entirely dependent on the fact that Purdue wasn't going to have an actual point guard once Ronnie knew he was leaving.
So adding a well respected player that was good enough to be told he was going to start at point guard at UCLA upon committing is a solid get in my opinion. At the very least it adds depth to the position, puts a more experienced and better option at the point than Thompson and could allow Scott to flourish at the two instead of handicapping his offensive production by tying him down at the point. All in all it helps round out a set of guards that desperately needed an answer. We already know Purdue has a big in Hammons (as well as two up and comers looking for minutes in Isaac Haas and Jacquil Taylor) and we already know there's a handful of options at the wing, including freshman Vince Edwards. But the addition of Octeus now solidifies the point guard position, Purdue's biggest question mark previously.
And while things may go wrong once again and that sudden rush of optimism may be all for not, at least with a month to go I'm starting to get excited once again for the basketball season. Purdue actually might be good, or at least better than bottom three in the Big Ten like most preview publications are pinning them at.
The news of adding Octeus, coming the week after Purdue's first Big Ten football win under Coach Hazell, has definitely led to the first good week at Purdue in quite some time it feels like. And that has me excited and once again feeling a bit of optimism as the season nears.