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Purdue University

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Boilers competing for starting spots

Painter

– Purdue coach Matt Painter isn’t sure who he’s going to start in the first game of the regular season.

And he’s just fine with that. After all, he started freshman guard and Northrop grad Bryson Scott over returning point guard Ronnie Johnson in Wednesday’s exhibition game.

“We have more depth; we have more experience,” Painter said Thursday at the Big Ten basketball media day. “(Freshmen) Basil Smotherman and Kendall Stephens, they could have started for us last night. They didn’t, but they’re in the mix in terms of the conversation. I think that competition and that depth is going to help us.”

There’s plenty competition and depth for of both on the Boilermakers roster this season, particularly at the guard spots.

Painter said Johnson is the best point guard on the team, but he went with Scott because the 6-foot-1 guard was the team leader in wins during competitive drills in practices.

A player’s’ ability to give the team a chance to win will be the biggest deciding factor for who starts and plays the most.

There is no entitlement on a team that was 16-18 last season.

“I told our guys, and I told (Scott) and I told Ronnie, that the last time I checked, we get gauged on winning,” Painter said. “And I just felt that he had earned that spot.”

Terone Johnson, a senior guard who Painter said deserves to start more than anyone else, is the lone safe bet. Purdue will go with a lot of four-guard lineups to use the balance the Boilermakers have along the perimeter.

“I think we’re pretty hard to contain as far as dribble-drives and stuff like that,” said Terone Johnson, who led the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game last season. “We’ve got some shooters now, pure shooters that can stretch the floor out.”

Those shooters – graduate transfer Sterling Carter and freshman Kendall Stephens – add a dimension the Boilermakers lacked last year. Couple that with the slashing skills of Fort Wayne native Rapheal Davis and Smotherman, and you have a squad with versatility on the perimeter.

It allows players to specialize in their strengths, Painter said, and could help prevent some of the mental errors that plagued the Boilers last season.

“I think we’ve got the ability from a perimeter standpoint to have more balance,” he said. “The thing that I’ve really tried to encourage is the decision making. When your ego collides with reality, how are you going to react to that? Who are you?”

smorrison@jg.net

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