Matt Painter has had one of the most talented centers in the conference anchoring his frontcourt for two years now. Unfortunately, having AJ Hammons inside has not translated into nearly as many wins as his coach would have hoped. The talent and ability of Hammons have been on display numerous times over the past two seasons, but consistently stringing these moments of dominance together throughout the season, and sometimes throughout a game, has proved to be a difficult task. Many fans and pundits have also questioned the 7-footer's desire and motivation to be best he can be every night. Fortunately, the Boilers may have the solution to these problems, bring in another very talented, very big man.
A.J. Hammons - There is no question who will be starting at center for the Boilermakers to start the season. Hammons will be the focal point of this team, even if the consistency isn't there. However, I think we will see an improved and more consistent AJ right from the beginning of the season. He played very well in the intra-squad scrimmage and even showed some outside range hitting a three.
The only reason Hammons won't starting at the 5 this season, is if he starts at the 4. There has been some talk of putting 7'2" freshman Haas and Hammons together on the floor this year and some experimentation has gone on during the preseason. If this proves to be an effective lineup, we will likely both players starting. However, the current projected starting lineup will feature sophomore wing Basil Smotherman at the 4.
Isaac Haas - Pay attention to this frosh, he is hard to miss at 7'2" and 300 pounds, he has the potential to be an All-B1G center by next year. While he didn't face a lot of talent playing in his home state of Alabama, Haas has performed well against and next to Hammons in practice and the scrimmages. Haas also seems to be very driven to improve himself and his team based on what I've read in interviews and on his twitter. Only time will tell if he can really push Hammons to be better than ever and/or if he supplants him.
Jacquil Taylor - Taylor is the only true power forward on the Purdue roster with the medical retirement of Jay Simpson last season. Jacquil was rated as 3-star prospect, but it has been speculated that he may have earned a higher rating and more attention from coaches if it wasn't for a foot injury sidelining him at a key time in the process. Taylor should see the floor during most games this season, but with so many young guys on this roster who are still developing, it is hard to say whether he will get 2 minutes a game or 25.
Overall Grade: B+
Hammons and the other bigs could easily be the best unit for the Boilers this season. The problem is with two freshman and star with more potential than results, they could be the most disappointing unit just as easily. Purdue needs to establish an identity early this season and really find a gameplan they can rely on every night. Focusing on the guys inside is a good option, and maybe by the end of the season this grade will be an A.