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Associated Press
Fort Wayne native Rapheal Davis has moved into Purdue’s starting lineup.

Davis’ work paying off for Boilers

Freshman from Fort Wayne has started last 5 games

– Purdue has “play hard” on the back of its practice shorts.

It’s more than a motto to Rapheal Davis.

“I try to bring that every game,” he said during a phone interview Saturday. “Coach just wants me to go out and give 150 percent every time I step on the floor, bust my butt and play as hard as I can. Rebound the ball and do a lot of the little things that he knows I can do. Bring good effort to the team.”

That approach put the Fort Wayne native in Purdue’s starting lineup the last five games. The freshman guard has averaged 8.2 points and 5.6 rebounds during that stretch.

“He’s done a better job. He’s getting better each game of understanding what he has to do,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “He’s done a good job of going out there and competing and playing hard and has put himself in front of those other guys.”

Davis is averaging 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds this season.

Davis had reached double figures in scoring in three of the four games before going scoreless Sunday against Iowa.

“He listens and tries to do what he’s supposed to do,” Painter said. “Good things happen when you have those attributes. That’s what winning basketball is all about.”

Purdue (11-9, 4-3 Big Ten) has won four of five heading into today’s home game against No. 3 Indiana (18-2, 6-1).

Davis is one of three freshmen who have been in the starting lineup in each of those games. He’s been joined by center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson. Purdue’s fourth freshman, Jay Simpson, is out the rest of the season with a foot injury.

“It feels really good being able to come out and play more and play in the games,” Davis said. “At the beginning, I was playing a little, but I wasn’t really playing a lot. Now it feels great, giving a bigger contribution and trying to help my teammates get the win.”

Davis – who played three years at South Side before spending his senior year at La Lumiere, a prep school in LaPorte – was first inserted into the starting lineup in the Boilermakers’ second game. He scored eight points in a Nov. 11 win against Hofstra.

Davis went back to being a role player off the bench. He had a breakout game against Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic on Dec. 15 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, scoring a career-high 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Davis played 20 minutes and had eight points in a Jan. 8 loss to Ohio State. The next game, he was back in the starting lineup. And he’s been there since.

“The Big Ten is exactly what I thought it would be,” he said. “Physical. Tough. Good guards. Good big men. It’s a real big adjustment, from the SAC and Fort Wayne to the Big Ten. … The biggest thing I’ve had to adjust to is learning the defense and the pace of the college game. Keep a steady pace. Don’t go too fast. Don’t go too slow. Just keep up.”

lpope@jg.net

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