Purdue was supposed to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten in 2014-15 according to pretty much every writer and media outlet. They didn't, though, and surged throughout conference play, ultimately ending up back in the NCAA Tournament after a two year drought. The forward momentum led to plenty of optimism, but there were still going to be questions heading forward. A lot of those questions had to deal with the need for an experienced point guard, even more so with the transfer of combo guard Bryson Scott. Further complicating things was a light recruiting class, meaning Purdue was going to have to work with what they had at hand unless they could land a senior transfer once again.
With P.J. Thompson as the only point guard on the active roster and the team's only other option being a three-star recruit not even on campus yet in Grant Weatherford, it made sense that Matt Painter hit the recruiting trails hard for a senior point guard. Unfortunately a laundry list of highly coveted prospects all decided to go elsewhere, including prime target Dylan Ennis (side note, could you imagine this team now with Ennis?). After swinging and missing on several guys, it looked like Painter was going to have to just make do with his roster until he was able to land senior Johnny Hill, an Illinois native transferring back to the midwest from Texas-Arlington.
I wasn't entirely sold on Hill and still think he's a bit of a question mark heading forward for Purdue, but his presence still adds at least some depth and experience in the backcourt. The senior has his flaws, particularly his issues with turnovers (3.1 per game last season, compared to 3.6 assists per game) and the fact that he has a dreadful perimeter game (25% from deep last season), but he also has the ability to drive to the rim and score inside. Based on his production so far, the turnover-prone, poor jump shooting point guard that can get to the rim is unfortunately reminiscent of recent starter Ronnie Johnson. So while Hill could go either way, the reality is he at least adds another option and will take some pressure off of sophomore P.J. Thompson as Purdue now has two true point guards. The move also allows a guy like Weatherford to possibly redshirt, or at least spend some time learning the system before being called upon.
While the addition of Hill somewhat addressed the biggest problem at hand, the news of former Purdue target Caleb Swanigan decommitting from Michigan State and being immediately rumored to land at Purdue led to a massive amount of hype across the fan base. While it seemed like there was a solid chance he'd end up at Cal, if a roster spot opened up, and Kentucky made a late push according to rumors, the five star big ultimately landed at Purdue. The combination of senior A.J. Hammons returning, development of impressive sophomore Isaac Haas and now top prospect Caleb Swanigan means Purdue now yields what is most likely going to be, by far, the best frontcourt in the conference. It also means that the Boilermakers also enter the field, alongside Maryland and Michigan State, as one of the more likely Big Ten favorites. Hell, they probably replace the Spartans, as there's going to be a considerable amount of hype for the Terrapins and Boilers for the 2015-16 season.
And the hype makes sense. A.J. Hammons had his flaws throughout his first two seasons at Purdue, but the addition of Haas helped push Hammons and completely remedied the centers issue with fouls and conditioning. The combination of a Hammons and Haas at the five last season led to one of the most impressive duos in the Big Ten and created a considerably size advantage. Now the Boilermakers will add 6'8" Caleb Swanigan at the four, giving Purdue an absolutely loaded and deadly 4-5 combination that will create nightmares for opposing teams. Like seriously, the Hammons/Haas setup last year was deadly enough as is, but with Swanigan the Boilermakers are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
That of course is before you realize that the team brings back Big Ten defensive player of the year Rapheal Davis, sophomore do-it-all Vince Edwards and a pair of three-point specialists in Kendall Stephens and Dakota Mathias. As long as the Boilermakers can get Thompson and Hill to be passable at the point, Purdue's roster is loaded from bottom to top.
After last season's impressive return to form, the Boilermakers were hoping to build off of the forward momentum and continue to improve in 2015-16. A thin recruiting class originally, the class of 2015 turned from an afterthought and blossomed this spring into a class that turns Purdue from a middle of the pack Big Ten program into a contender for the conference title. The hype in West Lafayette is only going to grow from here as Purdue becomes one of the most intriguing teams in the nation heading forward.