For Matt Painter and his Purdue program, this July—more than any before—is of the utmost importance. It's where the Boilermakers' uncertain direction will take shape. A blueprint will be created for Purdue's basketball future.
This season, the roster is intact. Promising talents such as A.J. Hammons, Terone and Ronnie Johnson make up the core, with a solid freshmen class joining the mix. The hope is this group can bring the Boilermakers back to the Big Dance, that following a dismal 2012-13 campaign. All indications are that this team will rebound. Beyond that, there are many questions that must be answered.
Will A.J. Hammons leave for the NBA if he meets expectations this season? Can Ronnie Johnson become the floor general Purdue once recruited? Can the first-year players provide that scoring punch Purdue so desperately needs?
The answers to each will be found later, but Purdue must secure its future now.
There's no set five-year plan—or even a two-year plan—for Purdue. The current roster is loaded with question marks and role players, but the rest is far from set. If the team underachieves miserably like last season, Painter's job could be jeopardy. This next month is critical.
On the road, Painter and crew must work to build favor with four-star forward Vince Edwards, their top prospect. The standout remains split between Purdue and Michigan. You better believe a Motion ‘P' will be in clear sight for each of his AAU games.
They must decide whether the versatile point guard, Tyler Ulis, is worth their time to recruit. The four-star from Chicago appears to be leaning toward Michigan State, but both Iowa and Northwestern made up some ground with weekend visits.
Over the course of the next two classes, Purdue must find its next floor general. Painter still feels Ronnie Johnson is that guy, but they would take Ulis in a heartbeat. If Ulis takes his game elsewhere as it appears he will, the Boilers must look ahead to a loaded 2015 class of point guards .
The most important need for Painter is at the center position, where it's likely that A.J. Hammons will leave for the association after his sophomore season—that assuming he plays to his potential this season.
The Boilermakers have entertained transfer possibilities, namely Zach Price and Michael Chandler. They have also pondered the option of big man Isaac Haas, a 7-footer from Alabama. Even if Hammons were to stay beyond this season, depth in the front court is quite thin.
For Painter, personally, this July offers the chance to bag a big recruit and show that he's still an ace recruiter. The title run of Michigan—led by in-state stars such as Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary—added some sting for Boilermaker fans following along. They were the ones that got away.
With a glance deeper toward the future, Purdue must take its gambles on rising names like Eron Gordon and Caleb Swanigan, part of the bright future in Indiana basketball. If not for names like those, the coaches must identify which young prospects are the "can't-miss" guys they get in on early.
The month bodes well. Painter has a great coaching staff in place with plenty of experience on the recruiting trails. You can count that a solid plan is in place for the month's work. But as it so often goes with recruiting, it's all how the chips fall. Purdue could sure use a few breaks.
The race is on, starting Monday morning. Purdue needs a winning month.