HOUSTON – In the second part of GoldandBlack.com’s Q&A with Matt Painter, the veteran Purdue coach discusses attracting a backup guard, what’s next for Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, and why Zach Edey will be motivated after winning six National Player of the Year honors if he returns to the program.
MATT PAINTER Q&A: “We need more team quickness”
Question: Are you in a holding pattern on what you’ll do in the portal based on what Zach does, or is that related to the open scholarship?
Painter: Not with the scholarship for David Jenkins. It’s not a holding pattern because we’re being aggressive there. Yes, we are contacting big guys right now. And if Zach leaves, then we would pursue those guys. If Zach comes back, then we wouldn’t, and that’s what we explained to all those guys. They all understand that.
Q: How will Zach handle winning all of these awards?
Painter: When you deal with selfless people, how they are as players is going down the same path. For him, I think he uses it as motivation in terms of working and saying, ‘Look at what these six years have gotten me; where are we going to be six years from now?’ Now you have the knowledge, you have the work ethic, you have the size, and just keep working and don’t get frustrated by setbacks. Really take setbacks as times to learn and use that as motivation.
Q: With Fletcher and Braden, did they get worn down as the season went on? How do you put their season in perspective, and what needs to happen moving forward for them?
Painter: I think they just need the natural progression of any freshman going into a sophomore. I think everybody thinks they understand what they’re walking into, especially if you’ve had the experiences with other people around you. But there’s nothing like that actual experience of doing it. I think they just need to keep working. They’re going to have great sophomore years. But they also need some pieces around them to offset some things like I said – we need some more athleticism, we need some more quickness, and I think that really helps those guys, but I think the season wears everybody down, even sportswriters and everybody.
ZACH EDEY: Sweeps National Player of the Year honors
But the first time is so educational compared to the next time. It’s like I told those guys the other day, I said when you look back on what you did as a freshman, and you see yourself in three or four years, you’ll laugh. You’ll just laugh because of what you’re taking in and how you’re handling it. You’re trying to do everything in your power to be successful, but you haven’t gotten that experience yet.
I’m excited because I see a lot of people around college basketball with guys that have been in their fourth, fifth, sixth year of college basketball, and they’re having a lot of success with it. And we’re having success – Trey Kaufman-Renn, Braden and Fletch as freshmen and then you have Caleb Furst as a sophomore. You have some guys that you can just keep building with and growing with. It’s not like we’re just trying to have a good season, then hopefully, three to four seasons later, we can have another good season. No, we have a good program, and we want to keep this going and we just want to be better in March and keep putting ourselves in those great positions.
One of the foolish things to do is to turn everything upside down, and now you’re going to lose what you’ve gained. We want to enhance what we gained but also be smart enough to say like, ‘Hey, there’s an issue here when we get to the tournament with this type of a team.’ And you can’t look at the making and the missing of the shots. You’ve got to look at the execution. You’ve got to look at the defense, and what really jumps out is getting more athleticism and quickness with that but not at the expense of the kind of values of what we’ve built.
Q: Is it a hard sale for a backup point guard knowing that guys get in the portal to do one thing, and that’s to play. You can’t offer them 35 minutes or something like that, right?
Painter: I think I’ve been able to prove that, and that’s what I always talk to them about is some of the scenarios we’ve had here in the past five years with returning guys that got beat out by other guys. I think they can play with those guys. I think they can start, I think they can back up. I don’t think you get yourself in the positions that we’ve gotten ourselves, and you say, ‘Hey, this is set.’ And I think anybody who’s a competitor, I think they would understand that – you just don’t say this is all set. I’ve always tried to be as honest as I can be with those recruits and let them know, ‘Hey, you’re going to have an opportunity to come in here and get things, but when you go into a good program, it’s going to be competitive.
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD: Edey reflects on season, what’s next
Sometimes it’s tough in the portal because so many things are being thrown at those guys, and sometimes they’re not looking the way we’re looking. That’s why David Jenkins was huge for us because he was such a selfless guy. He was such a team guy. He helped our team when he played, and he helped our team when he didn’t play, and that’s what you want. You want somebody that is looking for, ‘Hey man, I’ve never had this kind of success. I’ve never played for a championship. I’ve never been in an NCAA tournament. I want this for me, but I also want this for us.’ You want some of those shared values from those guys, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to get somebody.
That becomes pretty hard when there’s so much competition in the spring, and the recruitment sometimes isn’t … when you recruit somebody as a sophomore, junior, and a senior in high school, you build that relationship. They come in and see you four or five times. They find out about you. This is like cramming for a test. Sometimes they get bad cliff notes, and they don’t figure it out, and then all of a sudden they go places, and they’re like, ‘Why didn’t I know this?’ Well, it’s your job to figure it out. It’s our job to figure it out that we’ve got to bring a good dude in here. Sure, he’s got to have quickness, but he’s got to be a good dude.
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