FORT WAYNE – The Purdue mens basketball team enters this season with plenty of doubters and lots to prove.
So does the 2013 recruiting class.
The Boilermakers class includes St. Charles (Ill.) East guard Kendall Stephens, Northrop guard Bryson Scott and Lawrence North small forward Basil Smotherman.
The class is – or should be – a great follow-up for a 2012 group that showed some promise, but had holes in it.
Scott, in particular, has griped about the lack of respect for coach Matt Painters incoming corps.
Weve definitely got a chip on our shoulder, said Scott, who started open gyms with the Boilermakers on June 3. Everybody talks about Indiana. We want to prove ourselves and help get Purdue back on the map.
Scott said workouts have gone well for the newcomers, and the group has clicked well with the returning players. After a 16-18 season, the freshmen have a chance to play major minutes.
Painter said after the season that he wanted to watch the competition before he made any judgments. And by Scotts words, those battles are heated.
Recruits dont have flaws, but players do, Painter said in a postseason press conference in April. These guys are gonna go from looking like $1 million and all of a sudden they get on campus and its all relative. Now, youre going against guys that have played major college basketball, and theyve been in the trenches.
The motivation from a lack of national attention has carried into summer workouts for Scott, as well as Smotherman and Stephens. And while the Hoosiers are the talk of Indiana with their Sweet 16 appearance and a top-10 recruiting class, the new players at Purdue are ready to make their names known, as well.
(Stephens) has a great opportunity to step in right away and play, Painter said. Basil Smotherman and Bryson Scott have a great opportunity to step right in and play.
Im gonna start the guys that play the hardest. Were not getting the effort needed. I could care less if we go big, small, we play five centers or five point guards. Im gonna play the guys that play the hardest.
As they demonstrated in their senior campaigns, Painter can count on the incoming recruits to bring a top-tier work ethic.
And they might catch some teams by surprise, too.
Stephens, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, is the only player with a consensus top-100 ranking. Rivals puts him highest at No. 61, while 247Sports ranks him as the No. 78 player in the country.
Scott, a 6-foot-2 combo guard who scored 2,000 points in his career at Northrop and averaged nearly 25 points in his senior year, was No. 75 in the Rivals rankings.
But he fell outside the top-100 in ESPNs list.
Smotherman had the biggest outliers. Rivals had him at No. 112 after a 16-point, 8-rebound and 6-assist per game senior year. But 247Sports put him at No. 220, and Scout and ESPN had the 6-foot-7 forward as a three-star recruit.
But rankings dont mean much after high school. Results do. And Scott said reviews have been positive so far.
Were competing, Scott said.
We just gotta keep doing what we do.