As Purdue's season came to a close last week it's time to start taking a look at where the program stands and where they are heading as the 2015-16 season will be here before you know it. For today's post we'll be taking a look at Purdue's departing seniors, which thankfully will be a relatively short list.
When your program has so many players transfer out of the program it can lead to a roster full of underclassmen, which means a roster void of many seniors. That was the case in 2014-15, with only a former walk-on and a graduate transfer leaving campus after this semester. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for Purdue, both of their seniors were talented members of the program and helped turn around Purdue and get them back into the tournament. The more notable of the two, Jon Octeus, was a late addition from Colorado State that filled the team's biggest hole and helped carry Purdue into March. The other, Neal Beshears, was a former walk-on turned scholarship player that earned captain status and became a team leader, even if he wasn't one of the more vocal players on the team.
That being said, since this is a departing seniors post we'll refrain from discussing junior A.J. Hammons until a subsequent post later in the week. While not graduating this year, the starting center for the Boilers may still depart for the NBA as there's a high likelihood he would get drafted. When it comes to "will he stay or will he go" speculation, the reality is his decision will likely come down to if his odds of being a protected first round are high enough to justify leaving early. With second round picks not having their salaries guaranteed, there's a high chance he'll return for his senior season if it looks like he'd fall to the later round.
One of the best things that happened for Purdue this season was Jon Octeus. The graduate transfer from Colorado State originally intended to enroll at UCLA, where he likely would have started from the get go as well, but due to enrollment issues came to West Lafayette in the eleventh hour right before the season began. With Purdue having their previous starting point guard (Ronnie Johnson) transfer in the offseason, they had to offer a late scholarship to P.J. Thompson and had some serious questions on if Thompson or sophomore Bryson Scott could effectively run the point. Luckily for Purdue their ability to land Octeus effectively solved that problem, if only for a season.
The reality is without Octeus the Boilermakers probably wouldn't have reached the tournament this season. Even though Octeus was a late addition, by the time Big Ten play came along his level of performance made it seem like the guard had been on campus his entire career. Besides showing considerable leadership and effectively running the point, Octeus became an effective scorer for the Boilers and had a tendency to make momentum changing plays time and time again.
While people were well aware of his leadership and scoring abilities, something that went relatively under the radar was his ability to rebound. Even though Octeus measured in at only 6'4 on a team with two centers that were each at least seven feet tall, the senior went on to be second in total rebounds behind only Hammons. He also became a nuisance on defense for opposing teams, something that would have drawn more attention if not for the defensive performances from Hammons and junior Rapheal Davis. Rounding out the package was his ability to minimize turnovers and convert from the free throw line (72.4%).
While Purdue's depth chart is full of younger players set to return next season, the departure of Octeus is going to be a major issue that Purdue will need to remedy next season. With P.J. Thompson looking serviceable, but not quite there, and Bryson Scott falling out of rotation later in the season, Purdue may have a considerable drop off next season at the point. The reality is the addition of Octeus was a game changer for the Boilers and right now every Purdue fan is wishing that he had several more years of eligibility remaining.
Senior forward Neal Beshears is the second of two seniors on the roster this season and saw playing time in only one game this season, coming against the Hoosiers in January. Beshears was a former walk-on that ended up on scholarship for several seasons due to Purdue having several open scholarships available and was even rewarded as one of the team's captains. Unfortunately for Beshears, a hand injury kept him out in the non-conference slate when the bench was commonly emptied at the end of games. The senior, who was the only remaining player from Purdue's previous tournament appearance, plans on enlisting in the military upon graduation. While the forward won't be a hit to Purdue's depth, he did rise to be one of the more subtle leaders on the team and had made the most of his four years on campus.