Painter Prepares for New Challenges
Matt Painter spoke at the Big Ten basketball media days on October 25th. Here is the transcript
THE MODERATOR: We have with us head coach for Purdue, Matt Painter, Coach?
MATT PAINTER: We’re excited about this year, in a little bit of a different position for us with losing technically four guys that started the majority of the season. But we have some good talent, we’re very inexperienced, we have four true freshmen that I feel will play, we have redshirt freshmen that will play. It’s going to be a youth movement for us, and like I said earlier I do like our talent level, I don’t like our experience.
We made a trip to Italy this summer, which was great timing for us to get the four games, the ten practices and spend time together as a group. I think the timing of allowing us to have workouts this summer was great for this particular team like in all of college basketball. We’re excited about our opportunities this year, we have a good nonconference schedule. So we’re definitely going to be challenged and hopefully we will be prepared for a very tough, Big Ten season.
Q. Last year you came a game away from being the winner of the Big Ten. What do you see happening this year?
MATT PAINTER: I think anytime someone is predicting you to be in the lead they’re trying to frame your success. People may say this is not this team’s time, it’s going to be in a year, but it’s always your time. There are two teams that made the Final Four three years ago that didn’t receive any votes at all in the top 25 in the preseason and one of those had to win 25 games to get to the Final Four.
So you stick together and play hard. We had some tough losses with that team, in nonconference. When Hummel and Johnson were freshmen we know we got beat by a mediocre Iowa State team, we were down 16 0 against Florida International going into Big Ten play. We had struggled in our first couple of games, even though we were 2 1 we struggled in those games, and then we were able to go 15 3 and Brian Butch doesn’t bank in a three in Indiana we win the Big Ten.
So there is a lot to be said by continuing to work hard and stick together and I talked about it yesterday at practice. The teams normally that fade or drop off have a lot of distractions and have guys thinking about themselves instead of about what’s important for your program.
Q. Just maybe if you can assess the Big Ten, we have five ranked teams, a lot of power, just the way you see that from a national standpoint?
MATT PAINTER: Last year I felt we had the best league in the country. I think you’ve got to prove yourself all over again. I think it looks like we could do that again on paper, but you have to go out from a nonconference standpoint and solidify yourself.
But we have talent in our league from top to bottom and I think that’s maybe what separates us, obviously those teams that have been voted in the top 25 are all worthy of those rankings, but I think the teams that are at the bottom in the rankings are teams that can push to the top and put themselves in good position come March.
So time will tell, but the bottom half of our league is so good, however you want to categorize that, I don’t know what teams you want to put there but that makes our league pretty special. There are no easy outs throughout the season.
Q. With Indiana getting all this attention after a long climb back, what’s the view from Purdue on the Hoosiers?
MATT PAINTER: I think they have a very good team, and I think everything that they have been able to accomplish, they have earned and they’ve done it the hard way. When we took over at Purdue we were in last place, too. So I understand that climb. Now last year them getting fifth place and getting to the Sweet 16 which was a huge jump from where they were before and they were making strides before, they just needed that “impact” guy and I think they have that in Cody Zeller, which I consider the best player in college basketball. Jordan Hull’s work ethic, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, that gets contagious and they have a chance to contend for a Big Ten championship and anybody who can do that is good enough to get to the Final Four and put themselves into a position for a national championship.
Q. Going on that, you’re in a lot of the same living rooms and open gyms as Indiana. What is Purdue’s message amidst the hype? What do you say to sell Purdue?
MATT PAINTER: I think you start with education, you don’t worry about other people. Our education is top flight, I think we have great people at Purdue and last time I checked this is a “people” business. So if you want to go in there and talk about rankings and different things, we talk about trying to make it work two ways for a student-athlete. You make it work through education and through basketball. We have graduated every player in seven years, I think our guys have gotten better.
We haven’t signed any NBA players but we’ve put people in the NBA. Anybody can sign an NBA player, but can you take a guy that no one else in the league wants and four years later he gets drafted in the second round? I think you’re doing something as a staff when you can say that. But probably the number one thing I learned from Coach [Gene] Keady is be honest with your players. They will respect you.
Q. How does Johnson compare with Jackson?
MATT PAINTER: Anthony Johnson is a very good player; he’s a quintessential point guard. He looks for his shots a lot and I want him to do that, I want him to be aggressive and I think he will make an impact on our team, I think he will make an impact on our league. He’s just a great decision maker. He sees a frame ahead, his teams win in high school, in AAU, in competition, in practices, he makes other people around him better.
In comparison to Lewis, he’s bigger than Lewis, he can shoot better than Lewis, he sees the floor better than him. Lew was tough, he had ultimate quickness and a huge heart and I think Ronnie has some of those same intangibles, but I would take either one of them.
Q. Coach, what about A.J. Hammons? I know he went to Oak Hill. Does it fit what you haven’t had?
MATT PAINTER: No question, he’s a true freshman and I think Oak Hill helped him to prepare from an academic standpoint. It helped him prepare in that sense and Steve Smith has been doing it a long time and helped him in terms of his work ethic. With all that being said I thought the people at Carmel did a good job his freshman and sophomore year, sometimes it helps a young person to be able to get away and get a focus. It doesn’t mean something was wrong, just different. He’s ahead defensively right now, I would say, in terms of blocking shots and rebounding and passing and thinking the game.
He’s very good in those areas. Offensively, he can make an open shot to 17 feet. He’s got to get polished in the post, a go to move and feel more comfortable down there on the block. You would think someone who has always been huge, that’s that what they would be in terms of a low post guy, he would prefer to float, but we’re trying to anchor him and understand that we will get him the basketball if he will work to get deep position and then work to get position and score the ball.