9/27/22 Men's basketball practice, Braden Smith, Will Berg 1

Freshman guard Braden Smith drives against freshman center Will Berg during a drill in practice Tuesday.

The Boilermakers return just 39.5% of its minutes and 71 starts from last season.

That’s the most production Purdue has had to replace since the 2018-19 season, when the Boilermakers were Big Ten regular-season champions and went to the Elite Eight.

A lot of people want to dwell on what’s been lost, head coach Matt Painter said in reference to the several replacements Purdue basketball will have to make this upcoming season.

The team held its first open practice Tuesday, offering the first look at the 2022 roster after the departures of Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, Eric Hunter Jr., Isaiah Thompson and lottery pick Jaden Ivey.

“I thought our talent was a little higher than our production,” Painter said regarding last year’s team. “And that’s one of the few times that’s happened to Purdue in the last 20 years.”

Last year’s squad went out in disappointing fashion, losing to 15-seed Saint Peters in the Sweet 16. One offseason later, Painter is looking forward to this year.

Painter made it clear he wanted the team to focus on doing its job, something the coach thought last year's team didn’t do.

Painter backed this sentiment by making the team practice against a full-court press for the first half of practice. Last season, Purdue averaged the fifth-most turnovers per game in the Big Ten, which contributed to several important losses. Painter stressed that turnovers would not be an issue this year.

“We’re hanging out a lot off the court,” junior forward Mason Gillis said. “We’re doing things together, and I think it will help us a lot moving forward.”

The seniority on this team presents itself in the junior class. Four key juniors return: Gillis, center Zach Edey and guards Ethan Morton and Brandon Newman.

Morton and Gillis took charge and were two of the more vocal players on the court. Shouting plays and giving pointers while resting, the two looked to be the potential new leaders of the team.

“Gillis has been a good leader for us, and Morton has been a good leader for us too,” Painter said. “I think those two guys have kind of jumped to the forefront of vocal leaders and guys that know what’s going on.”

Edey sat out of Tuesday's practice with a concussion. This allowed sophomore forward Caleb Furst to show off, playing at the center for most of the practice. Painter noted Furst will be playing at the center more this coming season.

“(Furst)’s ability to shoot the basketball has really jumped out,” Painter said. “His ability to play (as a) stretch five but also still be able to play the four (have stood out).”

Furst was able to give freshman center William Berg a run for his money, pulling off quick moves in the post and stretching the defense out to the arc with his shooting ability. Furst, the former Indiana Mr. Basketball, will be looking to take a more featured role after starting just 12 games last season.

Alongside Berg, the team adds four more freshmen: guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith as well as forwards Camden Heide and Sam King.

The only other addition to the team is fifth-year guard David Jenkins Jr., who brings four seasons of experience to a relatively younger backcourt, Painter said, noting that Jenkins’ experience and scoring ability will help the team.

The one who caught the eyes of many in attendance was Smith; several questions were asked to Painter about the freshman after practice.

While Jenkins has experience as a point guard, that position may be filled by Smith, the the second Indiana Mr. Basketball on the team. Smith, who took on the role of point guard in practice, was not only lights out from beyond the arc but also managed to create several turnovers on defense.

“Smith is our only quintessential true point guard,” Painter said.

Painter talked about Smith and Loyer, noting how similar the two were.

“They’re both really competitive,” Painter said. “They’re both skilled. They both can pass the basketball. They have a really good feel for the game. (We’re) just trying to get them up to speed.”

The team will continue to practice for five weeks before its first exhibition game against Truman State on Nov. 2. The team will also hold a fan day on Oct. 22 at Mackey Arena, which they’ll attend along with the women’s team.


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