College sports

Purdue programs hope to rebound with help from local talent

2014-05-15T21:10:00Z 2014-05-15T23:29:11Z Purdue programs hope to rebound with help from local talentJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | Unlike most of the world, Purdue men's basketball coach Matt Painter wants to get old fast.

"We need to cultivate that senior and junior leadership like we had in the past," Painter said. "We still don't have any seniors coming back (next season), but we'd like to get old again."

At least the Boilermakers are going to get a little grayer at the pivot position. Gary resident A.J. Hammons, who prepped at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, has agreed to return to West Lafayette for his junior season.

"He made the right decision," Painter said of Hammons, who averaged double-figure scoring the last two seasons. "From what we were hearing, he looked to be a late second-rounder, and that usually means time in the (NBA) D-League or being sent overseas.

"Coming back gives him a better chance to be NBA ready, but he's got to get his motor running a little more for rebounds. We'd like to see him get at least 10 a game."

Painter was one of the featured speakers at the Boilermaker Coaches Caravan, Thursday night at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza. Others included Purdue football coach Darrell Hazell, women's volleyball coach Dave Shondell, and former Purdue basketball star and 12-year NBA veteran Brian Cardinal, who is now the assistant director for the John Purdue Club.

Hazell, who is entering his season leading the Boilermaker football program, talked about his first four-star recruit, Lake Central senior Gelen Robinson.

"He has been on our radar for a while, and we're glad we were able to get him," Hazell said of Robinson, son of former Purdue All-American basketball player and NBA All-Star Glenn Robinson.

Ironically, about the sport the younger Robinson hasn't dominated in high school is basketball. He's also a state-champion wrestler and state runner-up thrower in track and field.

"Right now, he's got his mind set on playing football for us ... that's what we'll concentrate on," Harzell said of Robinson, who will fill in at linebacker. "He's a great athlete. If he ever decides to wrestle or do track, we'll cross that bridge when it gets here."

For Purdue's men's basketball team and football team, the only place to go is up as Big Ten standings go. Last season, both program's finished last. The women's volleyball team, however, appears poised for continued success. Purdue has made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA volleyball tournament six times in past nine years.

"The freshmen we're bringing in is best class of recruits we've ever had," Shondell said of the four Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 seniors he signed, including 6-4 middle blocker Christine Ambrose, from Winter Park, Fla.

"She can reach up to 10-foot-11 on her jumps," Shondell said of Ambrose.

Shortly before the program began, Painter emoted a bit about the state of collegiate athletics, ranging from the proliferation of transfers and "one-and-dones" to the proposal of unionization of college athletes.

"We hear a lot(about) the Johnny Manziel's and the Adrian Peterson's and how much money they made for their universities," said Painter, who has a 191-112 overall record at Purdue. "But what about a guy like me who averaged 4 points per game? I'm thankful for the free education I received that helped me put me in the position I'm in today."

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