Matt Painter should finally have frontcourt depth.
A pair of 6-foot-8 forwards in Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson signed National Letters of Intent to play for Purdue next season, adding to a group that will include 6-8 Robbie Hummel, 6-8 Patrick Bade, 6-9 Travis Carroll and 6-9 Sandi Marcius.
It's possible Painter could add one more athletic big man to the class. Michigan native Amir Williams, a 6-10, 220-pounder, is expected to announce his decision Nov. 17, the final day of the early signing period. Williams' final five are reportedly down to Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida and DePaul.
If Williams picks Purdue, Painter will have a bit of a conundrum. With Hummel's injury, Painter has only two scholarships available for next season. But if Williams signs, Painter will be one over in the class.
Hale fell victim to that last year. There likely was an expectation that one of the team's "big three" would leave early for the NBA, leaving Hale a spot on this season's team. Instead, Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson all returned. That meant Hale was shipped off to prep school.
But Painter seemed more excited than worried about the potential for next season with Hale and Lawson. (He can't talk about Williams per NCAA rules.)
"We've always wanted to push (Hummel) down and play him at small forward, and we haven't been able to for our lack of bigs," Painter said. "I don't think we're going to be able to say that going forward in the next year because I think we have a lot of quality bigs now."
Painter said he thinks Lawson is one of the best high school players in the country at his position and likes that Oak Ridge Military Academy (N.C.) plays a tough schedule.
"The sky is the limit for Jacob if he comes to Purdue and puts time into his individual game, puts time into the weight room and learns our system," Painter said. "He knows he's got some things to improve from a skill standpoint, but that's something we've proven is possible with the development of our players over the last five years."
- On an unrelated, but kind of cool, note. I've been working from Mackey Arena today on signing-day stuff and a couple fellas are up in the upper bowl getting the Big Ten championship banner hung from the rafters. They're putting a black covering over it. It will be unveiled at the season opener Sunday.