WEST LAFAYETTE – It doesnt take much to see the energy, toughness and adrenaline that Purdue will bring to the basketball court this season.
All it took Saturday was 30 seconds, as sophomore guard Rapheal Davis and graduate transfer Errick Peck wrestled over a loose ball that would have been called dead long before under normal circumstances. Their fellow Boilermakers surrounded them, cheering and clapping, as the two tugged at the ball on the ground.
Finally, coach Matt Painter blew his whistle.
Davis and Peck got up, patted each other on the back and got back in line for the drill.
That competitive nature is what Purdue needs to show it has more of than the Boilermakers of last season, Davis said.
The energy was high – it was amazing in here, way better than any practice Ive ever been involved in, said the 6-foot-5 Davis, a Fort Wayne native. We play like that, play like bulldogs, nobody will want to play against us. We scrap like that out here with each other, were gonna bring it to everybody else.
Painter said it was the best first practice he has been a part of as a coach.
Players collapsed, pushed, shoved, elbowed and gritted their way through the workout, which comes after a summers worth of offseason work and individual time with coaches and trainers.
Saturday was the first official team practice day on the NCAA schedule.
Northrop graduate and Purdue freshman Bryson Scott, along with freshmen Basil Smotherman (Lawrence North) and Kendall Stephens (St. Charles, Ill.), made their debuts in a team practice setting and continued to impress both coaches and teammates.
Bryson, I think this summer was very good for him, said Painter, who confirmed he doesnt plan to redshirt any of the freshmen. You just want to put him in position to go full-throttle.
Those three, along with Peck and fellow graduate transfer Sterling Carter, join a group that had three freshman starters last season and got major contributions from all of its underclassmen.
Despite all the returning players, not much is expected of Purdue after a sub-.500 season in 2012-13. Davis and the others hope to turn heads and defy those expectations.
People are always gonna sleep on us, said Davis, who averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds for Purdue as a freshman. Were just gonna have to wake them up, really. We just got to go out and hit everybody in the mouth first game, especially when we get into Big Ten play, just make a statement.
The Boilermakers definitely made one to those in the gym Saturday. Purdue is hungry to make up for 2012.
The experience of going through some of those struggles last year, hopefully it helps us, Painter said. Were in a better position.