WEST LAFAYETTE – If the Purdue basketball team is to bounce back from consecutive losing seasons, the reversal of fortune almost certainly will have a strong Fort Wayne flavor.
Junior guard Raphael Davis, who spent three seasons at South Side before spending a season at a prep school, and sophomore point guard Bryson Scott, a standout at Northrop, will be vital pieces to the 2014-15 Purdue season.
Davis, who started 15 times as the Boilermakers went 15-17 last season, averaged 6 points and 3.7 rebounds, leading Purdue in scoring twice. With no scholarship seniors on this roster, Davis wants to become the Boilermakers’ vocal leader.
Scott, who started twice as a freshman playing primarily behind point guard Ronnie Johnson, averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds, leading the team in scoring six times. Now that Johnson has transferred to Houston to play for former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson, Scott is the heir apparent to be the starting point guard.
How well he and incoming freshman point guard PJ Thompson from Indianapolis Brebeuf play likely will determine Purdue’s fate.
Davis is taking three summer school classes and working out every day. Scott is taking one class and hitting the gym and the weight room as often as he can.
I want to take more of a vocal leadership role, Davis said Wednesday after an open gym workout.
In the past two years, I have been a leader by my actions. Now, not only do I want to do the right things, I want to say the right things. I plan to carry that out on a day to day basis.
I want to give the young guys someone to look up to. The five incoming freshmen are good players who all bring something different to the table. They each know what they are coming into. It is what they wanted.
Thompson, center Isaac Haas, forward Vince Edwards, shooting guard Dakota Mathias and forward Jacquil Taylor are coach Matt Painter’s incoming freshmen. Davis said he will attempt to instill an early message to the five freshmen.
It is all about paying attention to the smallest details, Davis said. A block out, a defensive rotation or taking a charge. The other thing is getting guys to work on their defense in the offseason. That’s something a lot of people don’t even discuss in the summer when they say they are going to the gym.
You have to come in and put your whole game together and not just worry about offense. If you play a full game, your offense is going to take care of itself.
Purdue was 13-5 last season when it traveled to Northwestern for a game the Boilermakers lost 63-60 in double overtime. From there, Purdue lost 12 of its last 14, including the final seven.
We have to be prepared, Scott said. Last year, I don’t feel like we prepared, even though sometimes we went into things and thought we were prepared. There were individuals who sometimes didn’t have their mind right.
If all of us prepare and are all for one, we can achieve the Purdue basketball tradition. I am the most excited guy in the world right now. I have an opportunity to show people that I can play point guard and be a successful point guard in this league.
Scott said the now departed Johnson rarely helped him. That is something he will not let happen to incoming freshman Thompson.
Ronnie never really helped me in that area, so I kind of had to pick up the ropes by myself, Scott said. Everything I got, I was getting by myself. I want to help PJ and help us grow as a team.
It is a crucial time for us to have a point guard, and I am ready to fill every expectation. If we do, I feel very confident we can make that turnaround, especially with the young guys we have coming in.
It also was a huge bonus for us when A.J. Hammons decided to come back.
The 7-foot Hammons toyed with the idea of entering the NBA draft but will return for his junior season. Sophomore shooting guard Kendall Stephens is another who should help Davis and Scott lead the Boilermakers.
Davis, a management major who earned All-Academic Big Ten honors as a sophomore with a 3.1 grade-point average, has known Scott since the two played AAU basketball with the SAC program in elementary school.
While they were high school rivals, there is a lot of mutual respect. In fact, Scott says he looks up to Davis like a big brother.
Davis said it’s possible that Scott could be the most important player entering the season.
Bryson is going to be big for us this year, Davis said. Him emerging as a point guard is going to be huge.