In the months leading up to the 2015-16 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing a new series called the 'BTPowerhouse 25,' which features the Top 25 players in the Big Ten as voted by members of the staff. All players set to be on Big Ten rosters for next season were eligible during the staff vote with their top selection receiving 25 points and their 25th and final selection receiving 1 point.
Today we take a look at the big man in the middle for the Purdue Boilermakers, senior and block machine A.J. Hammons. He earned 2nd Team All-Big Ten honors last season and will anchor a dominant frontcourt this year.
'BTP 25' - #4 A.J. Hammons
- Eligibility: Senior
- Career Totals: 99 games, 2388 minutes, 1099 points, 660 rebounds, 259 blocks
- 2014-15 Averages: 24.3 minutes, 11.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 2.8 blocks, 0.5 steals
- Positional Role: Center
Purdue is coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in a few years and is returning the vast majority of last year's team. As such, fans have high expectations for Purdue this season. However, if the Boilermakers are ultimately going to live up to the hype, it's going to be because of the team's frontcourt.
The frontcourt should feature several players with plenty of potential including 5-star recruit Caleb Swanigan, returning sophomore Isaac Haas, and of course, a potential All-Big Ten player in AJ Hammons. His combination of size and shot blocking ability should make him the key piece upfront and if he has a big year, it's likely that Purdue can build off the team's success from last season.
Undoubtedly, the biggest strength for Hammons comes from his size and particularly, his shot blocking ability. He is a physically imposing player that can bully opponents in the paint. Among that skillset, his shot blocking skills are simply excellent. He finished 11th nationally in block rate among contributors and led the entire Big Ten in the same category by more than two points. To put just how dominant that stat is in perspective, just consider that only about 25 players in the entire Big Ten even had a block rate of at least two points. Hammons led the conference by two points.
Of course, Hammons is also a solid defender along with his ability to alter shots and a quality rebounder. He led the team in rebounding rate and ranked seventh in the conference in defensive rebounding rate. Finally, he was solid at getting to the free throw line and ranked among the top 10 in the conference in the category.
Areas for Improvement
Overall, Hammons is an excellent college player and for the most part, has reached most of his potential considering he is about to enter his senior year. However, there are a few areas where Hammons could show improvement. To start, his free throw rate was just 66.9% last season. Yes, he gets to the line enough to override some of those issues, but if he could get back to around the 70% number he put up in 2013-14, it could help the team quite a bit.
Along with this, Hammons has yet to make a 3PT shot during his career at Purdue and probably could improve on his passing, especially since there will be floor spacing concerns this season for Purdue. There's no debating that Hammons will never be a great shooter or an outstanding passer, but these are areas where he could improve.
The Boilermakers are set for an interesting season. It's going to be a team that has all the pieces to be successful, but has a lot of question marks about how these pieces will actually mesh together. Nonetheless, Hammons is expected to be the leader on arguably the most talented Purdue team in years. If he can push the Boilermakers to success, it's not hard to think he will be in a plethora of award discussions.
There should be a few challengers to Hammons in the Big Ten, but given the fact that a big man is pretty much guaranteed to make the All-Big Ten team, it seems like Hammons has the inside track to All-Big Ten honors this year. If things go right, he might even be able to get in the Big Ten Player of the Year discussion. Overall, it should be an outstanding season for Hammons to cap an excellent career.
- Players That Just Missed The Cut
- #25 - Kendrick Nunn (Illinois)
- #24 - Bryant McIntosh (Northwestern)
- #22 (tie) Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland)
- #22 (tie) - Thomas Bryant (Indiana)
- #21 - Rapheal Davis (Purdue)
- #20 - Derrick Walton Jr. (Michigan)
- #19 - Caleb Swanigan (Purdue)
- #18 - Shavon Shields (Nebraska)
- #17 - Eron Harris (Michigan State)
- #16 - Zak Irvin (Michigan)
- #15 - Jae'Sean Tate (Ohio State)
- #14 - Bronson Koenig (Wisconsin)
- #13 - Alex Olah (Northwestern)
- #11 (tie) - Diamond Stone (Maryland)
- #11 (tie) - James Blackmon, Jr. (Indiana)
- #10 - Malcolm Hill (Illinois)
- #9 - Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa)
- #8 - Jake Layman (Maryland)
- #7 - Troy Williams (Indiana)
- #6 - Caris LeVert (Michigan)
- #5 - Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
- #4 - AJ Hammons (Purdue)
- #3 - To be continued ...