WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A few hours before tipoff of Purdue’s 89-73 win over Minnesota, Matt Painter knew what to expect from A.J. Hammons. He believed the inconsistent freshman was set for a strong performance.
“He’s ready to play,” Painter said to a recruit when speaking before the game. “He’ll be ready to play today. The way he prepared himself, you could see the look in his eye.”
Hammons’ teammates saw it, too.
Before the game, Hammons pulled aside fellow freshman Rapheal Davis and began teaching him the art of the crossover. Minutes later, though, Hammons was zoned in.
“He got serious,” Davis said of Hammons. “He was hyped when they introduced us coming out. I’ve seen that look in him. He came out to play.”
Added guard Dru Anthrop: “I think when he makes noise. Like, no matter what random sound comes out of his mouth, he’s more focused.”
Hammons scored 14 points while connecting on all six field-goal attempts in the Boilermakers’ regular-season finale. He also added six rebounds, three blocks, and even dove to the floor for a loose ball, fighting it away from physical Minnesota forward Rodney Williams III.
An undisputed NBA talent, Hammons has been unpredictable in his freshman season. His high moments include a season-high 30-point performance against Indiana and a dominating six-block effort against Nebraska. But his lows include missing the team bus before a game with Northwestern or a 3-of-10 shooting display in Purdue’s blowout loss to Indiana.
The talent is undoubtedly there for Hammons; the effort, though, remains varied.
In the first half on Saturday, Hammons received a pass in the paint and fooled Williams with a fluid spin move to the basket, finishing strong with a layup. Then, he was late to get back in transition, leaving his coaches visibly frustrated.
Just 20 seconds later, Hammons threw down a powerful fastbreak slam, sending the Mackey Arena crowd into a frenzy. Still, he was removed from the game during the next stoppage of play.
“He just needs to grow up as a player,” Painter said of Hammons. “Once he does that, he’s going to be tough to stop. We’re a pretty good basketball team when he comes to play.”
Purdue has a premier talent in A.J. Hammons, a former four-star recruit who was wanted by schools throughout the country. In order for the standout center to reach his potential, he must prepare for each opportunity.
“The consistency is his number one thing,” said Painter. “But it’s also the preparation leading up to practice, it’s leading up to a game; it’s not the actual game or practice. That’s what he needs to do a better job of.”
Hammons gave a glance at his spectacular potential, on Saturday. Now, he must make it consistent.