Matt Painter didn't take the bait.
When asked by Goldandblack.com's Brian Neubert during Painter's weekly teleconference this morning just who his vote was for Big Ten Player of the Year, Painter said he wouldn't tell.
"We've still got to play games," Painter said with a laugh. "It's like setting me up, brother."
Then he budged, a tad.
"I don't think it's real hard to figure out," he said.
Senior center JaJuan Johnson certainly is a prime candidate.
Not only has Johnson had his best statistical season for the Boilermakers -- averaging a Big Ten-best 20.5 points and 2.35 blocks to go with 8.1 rebounds per game -- he's been consistent. That's one of the best marks of a great player.
Johnson scored in double digits in every game this season and had 13 20-plus games against Big Ten opponents.
He had 10 games with at least 10 rebounds.
He had 20 games with at least two blocks.
And Johnson produced when he knew he had to do more with Rob Hummel out for the season. It helps to have fellow All-Big Ten first-teamer E'Twaun Moore on the court, too.
"We made more of an emphasis this year to get the ball to JaJuan," Painter said. "That was a thing we'd done even if we had Rob (Hummel)."
It'll be interesting to see if Moore also lands on the first team again this season. There'd seem to be six guys vying for the five spots: Johnson, Moore Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Wisconsin's Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor and Penn State's Talor Battle.
Personally, I like Leuer and Taylor more than Battle, but no one can argue with Battle's ability to score. Johnson just edged him out for the league scoring title (20.5, 20.4).
"I'm proud of our seniors. Those guys have come a long way," Painter said of Johnson and Moore. "They deserve a lot of awards, and I would think tonight they're going to get them.
"This year, JaJuan and E'Twaun made other guys better. That just shows you about their development as players because that's a hell of a compliment. You can actually be a really good player and you don't make other guys better. I think that's when the word great comes."
- Sullinger, for one, thinks Johnson should be the Player of the Year. He told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Johnson "has been doing it all for them."