WEST LAFAYETTE -- During a media session last week, Rapheal Davis was asked what senior guard Terone Johnson means to this Purdue team. The sophomore forward began with some honest, sincere words.
“He means a whole deal of a lot,” Davis started. Everybody looks up to him.”
But then Davis stopped his praise and burst out in laughter, looking beyond the cameras and microphones. There was Johnson making faces to his teammate. This is just part of what the Boilermakers’ leader brings to the locker room.
Johnson is the heart and soul of these Boilermakers. He’s the first to celebrate a big shot and the first to demand more from his teammates. Above all, Johnson is a friend and respected teammate.
“Everybody has their respect for him,” Davis later said. “It’s a big thing for us.”
During the Boilermakers’ great struggles of last season, Johnson voluntarily carried the burden. He stood before the media after gut-wrenching losses and owned it. Purdue’s demise helped him become a better leader.
In the offseason, Johnson took that chip on his shoulder and used it to improve. He worked tirelessly on his shooting, vowing to become a stronger, more reliable scorer this season. But the biggest difference is in his leadership abilities.
“I felt like I had a lot of voice in the locker room, being an example for everybody else,” said Johnson.
Nobody on Purdue’s roster knows Terone quite like his younger brother, sophomore point guard Ronnie Johnson. He, too, sees the difference in big brother.
“He has been more mature,” Ronnie said of Terone. “He has been showing his leadership. We need things like that from our seniors.”
Purdue is now several weeks into its preseason practices, and Johnson has been at the helm since day one. Gone are the days where Matt Painter had to drive the effort out of his team. Instead, it’s player-owned—starting from the senior leadership.
“When you have to worry about being competitive, that’s something that can hurt you,” Johnson said.
Much of Purdue’s roster is filled with new names, with two transfers and three freshmen joining a veteran-laden team. Those newcomers know which player is in charge.
“He has that voice that carries a mile away,” said fifth-year senior guard Sterling Carter, a transfer from Seattle University.
“You want to listen to someone who has won in the NCAA Tournament and has lost and hasn’t made it to the NCAA Tournament; someone who has played under Coach Painter for the last four years. He has a lot of wisdom that a lot of us on the team, old or young, would like to get from him.”
Carter called his new teammate a “player that’s very underrated in the Big Ten. But Johnson matches his quiet impact with a loud voice on the court, in the locker room, and just about everywhere else.
Last season, Johnson was constantly getting on the Boilermakers’ young core, attempting to drive out every ounce of talent. Even when the going got rough, Johnson’s voice remained loud.
“There will be days where I don’t want to hear nothing anybody says,” Davis said. “But he’ll just keep talking and talking until you buy into what he’s saying. It was great for me last year, especially as a freshman.”
Terone’s younger brother agrees, adding: “He’s helped a lot. He’s straight up about what I need to work on, what I do wrong on the court. I take those things and try to work on them.”
This is Johnson’s last year in a Purdue uniform, and he’s hoping to make it count. The senior won’t stop leading or talking until his team is back on top.
“I’ve seen how this fan base is, in the good and the bad—they’re always there with us,” Johnson said. “I think we owe it to them to get back to winning.”