INDIANAPOLIS (November 11, 2015) -- Matt Painter has Purdue back on the right path. That is, he has them back on a winning path.
After winning just 16 and 15 games in 2012-13 and 2013-14 respectively, the Boilermakers notched 21 wins last season and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
"It's difficult anytime you lose, especially when you feel like the talent is there to compete and get yourself into the NCAA Tournament. And that's how we felt," Painter said from inside his office. "But I thought last year, especially Rapheal Davis, Octeus, A.J. Hammons, they really played well in January and February and March and did some really good things for us, so that gives us something to really build off," he added.
The 45 year-old head coach of the Boilermakers gets set to open the coming season with a talented roster. He has players at all positions and sees his team ranked in both preseason Top 25 polls.
"I think our ceiling could be pretty high," he said.
But that ceiling likely won't be reached without the help of Hammons. The unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection didn't play in Purdue's lone preseason game. His place in Painter's doghouse will remain unless he shows the coach what he needs to see.
"This is just one of those things where he's got to get some things in order before he starts playing for us," Painter said.
Is Hammons at risk of missing regular season games?
"Yes. Yes he is," he answered.
The good news? The Boilermakers have talent in the front court regardless of Hammons' availability. 7-2 Isaac Haas comes off a freshman season that saw him average 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds playing reserve minutes, and prized recruit Caleb Swanigan has impressed Painter in his short time on campus.
"I think his impact has already happened in our program because he works so hard," Painter said. "He's the highest ranked recruit that we've had, but yet he's the hardest working recruit that we've had. He's driven."
Add Rapheal Davis, Vince Edwards, Kendall Stephens and others to the players mentioned, and the Boilermakers should have no trouble returning to the NCAA Tournament. Their season begins Friday at Mackey Arena against North Carolina A&T.