In a slowly growing, yet possibly irrelevant story, the status for Purdue starting center A.J. Hammons is up in the air as the team prepares for their upcoming scrimmage against Northwestern Ohio this weekend. Hammons, a senior, already sat out the team's secret scrimmage against Dayton and that same scenario could play out in a couple of days.
As for the reason why? Well, we don't know. And Purdue head coach Matt Painter has been relatively vague on the matter.
"He still has some things he has to get taken care of. Hopefully he can play in the first game. But we’ll see. Obviously it’s internal stuff but he just has to take care of his business," said Painter. "Sometimes you let your focus go on those who aren’t taking care of their business and they get your time. You’ve got to make sure you’re giving your time to the ones that are doing the things necessary to get out on the court."
Hammons was made unavailable at the media session before practice on Thursday, though that really wasn't a surprise. The vague nature of Painter's comments and the fact that this story was a minor note a few days ago before finally gaining some traction after the fact creates some question as to what the issue actually is. It should be noted that Hammons has had a prior run in a few years back when he was suspended for the beginning of his sophomore season for violating team rules.
Back then a lot of the fan base questioned Hammons' commitment to the team, fueled heavily by his inconsistency and occasional lulls in effort level. Now Hammons is coming off of his best season in West Lafayette and looks like a potential NBA draft pick next summer, making the news somewhat more surprising than it was two years ago.
If Hammons is forced to miss any time Painter will turn to sophomore center Isaac Haas, who also started games last season before A.J. took back the starting spot. Caleb Swanigan could also spell Haas if need be, something that would likely happen if Hammons is out considering Haas' tendency to pick up fouls in a hurry. Either way, the hope is that Purdue will get their starting center back in time for the season and it's being implied that Hammons should be ready to go a week from now. If not, though, Purdue will be considerably more prepared this season with the return of Haas and addition of Swanigan.
Still, it's not the best way to start things off for Purdue. It could be a meaningless foot note, but it could also indicate a lack of focus as the season approaches and that could potentially be detrimental. The depth Purdue has, especially down low, makes this less of an issue compared to two years ago, but it won't be a good thing if Hammons ends up entering Painter's doghouse this early in the season.