FORT WAYNE – There’s just something different about those Fort Wayne kids, Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
No matter what kind of player it is, no matter which high school program they’re from, there’s an innate toughness that comes out of the Summit City.
It’s a toughness he likes to have on his team. Guys such as sophomore guard Rapheal Davis and freshman guard Bryson Scott embody the Boilermakers’ toughness-first philosophy.
I think they bring an intensity to our program, Painter said. They compete. Basketball means something to them.
That was clear during the first official practice Sept. 28.
Davis, who averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 34 games last season, was all over the floor during drills. Scott, despite his 6-foot-1, 201-pound frame, was more than willing to body up to forwards for rebounds and fight for his share of loose balls, as well.
After practice, the 6-5 Davis, still catching his breath and dripping sweat, couldn’t stop smiling.
That was how he wanted practice to be last season.
We’re extremely determined, he said on Cardinal Court that day. Just look around this gym: all the greats up there, all the tournament banners, all that stuff. We just got to put our year up there.
We talk about that every day: Just getting back to the Elite Eight, Final Four.
Those are lofty goals for a program that finished 16-18 last season, but if Purdue can give the kind of effort it has in practices during games, then the Boilermakers have a chance to surprise some teams.
After his first practice, he told me he’d never dove so much on the basketball in a practice, said Barak Coolman, Scott’s coach at Northrop. I think Bryson can kind of overcome that with his competitive drive to want to be on the court and want to push himself. Not just say it, but actually go do it.
Painter noticed a lot of development between Davis and Scott, who first played together in fifth grade during AAU basketball.
Davis will likely see a lot of time at shooting guard and small forward, while Scott will work his way in as a combo guard at both the point and shooting guard spots.
I think Rapheal knows what he’s doing now, and that helps him to even play harder, Painter said. Bryson, I think the summer was very good for him.
That competitive edge Scott brought with him to West Lafayette helped with the transition and has set him up to get playing time early in the season.
His relationship with Davis has also helped the former Bruin and SAC Player of the Year.
He comes to me sometimes with questions, and I just treat him like a little brother from home, really, Davis said. He comes from Fort Wayne, so he’s got that mentality – that dog mentality. Everybody that steps out here from Fort Wayne is going to go hard, and that’s what we do.