Basketball season is fast approaching, and if there is one fan base that could use some quality optimism it is Purdue. So without further ado, five cases for why Boilers should be looking forward to this season.
1. AJ Hammons
NBA quality big man AJ Hammons has decided to come back to West Lafayette for his junior season. Over the last two years Purdue's center has shown the ability to dominate with his size and skills inside. Unfortunately, he hasn't been consistent enough to make the kind of impact Boilermaker fans would like to see over a whole season. Hammons' whole game could use some refinement and his effort and focus wane at times. Luckily for fans a new arrival should be able to light a fire under AJ and accelerate his development this offseason.
2. Incoming Freshmen
Matt Painter has signed a top 25 recruiting class for 2014. Included in the class are 4-star 7' Issac Haas and 4-star SF Vincent Edwards. Haas will either push Hammons or replace him, and the only thing better than one talented 7-footer, is two. This season's incoming freshmen also includes 3-star recruits Jacquil Taylor (PF) and Dakota Mathis (SG). Finally, rounding out a full lineup of frosh is diminutive PG P.J. Thompson.
3. Nowhere to Go but Up
The Boilers finished dead last in conference last year. It is hard to imagine that happening again, especially with the addition of the hapless Scarlet Knights in their first B1G season. History is on their side as Purdue has never finished last in conference in consecutive years. Coach Painter and the rest of the basketball program know their finish last season was unacceptable. That should mean the staff and players will be putting their best effort in every game.
4. Matt Painter
The coach of the Boilermakers has had a rough couple of years since the "Baby Boilers" graduated, but he still deserves credit for being a quality B1G coach. This will be a defining year for Painter. He is definitely on the hot seat, but that knowledge could push him to do his very best with what this team has to offer. The coach might also benefit from loss of some players who, while talented, were rumored not to fit well for one reason or another.
5. Better than Football
Let's be honest, the Purdue football team is very down and they are not showing any signs of significant improvement. You can't really blame Purdue fans for looking ahead to the less bleak future of the basketball program. There is a sense of pride in the football team's history, but it does not compare to the pride felt for the basketball team. No one wants to be the worst program on campus, but that is an especially dubious distinction when you're a basketball team in THE basketball state.
The Maui Invitational is one the best early season tournaments and could provide some great experience for this young squad. Also, a trip to Hawaii is always nice.