WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue basketball hit the court for the first official practice of the new year Wednesday afternoon.
“You’ve gotta start figuring things out,” explained head coach Matt Painter, “like who you’re gonna play and who you’re gonna play together. That’s what a lot of practices normally do. They sort things out.”
Without skipping a beat, Painter added, “But sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to go through a lot of games to find out who plays well together.”
Purdue knows that scenario very well. After a disappointing 6-5 start in the 2018-19 season, the Boilers caught fire, won a share of the Big Ten regular season title and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s where we’ve been able to continue to improve in the last four to five years,” pointed out Painter. “We’ve gotten better as the year’s progressed as a team. We’ve allowed adversity to make us stronger. We’ve allowed adversity to allow us to grow. We’ve become a better team each year, and we’ve been a different team.
“This year, we lost three really good players (last year’s starters Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline, and Grady Eifert). It’s gonna be important for us to keep learning from each other, keep working, concentrating our our strengths, and staying away from our weaknesses.”
With a young roster, these first few practices will in part be about learning what those strengths and weaknesses actually are.
“I thought they did a good job,” Painter said about his players on this day one. “From a competitive standpoint, it get a bit longer now, two and a half to three hours. You find out who can play through fatigue and things of that nature. I thought they did an alright job. It’s just the first day.”
“It gets exciting,” added sophomore wing Aaron Wheeler. “Once that first practice comes around, the season is right around the corner. It’s good to make things official, move on from last year, move forward and build off that.”
Purdue opens the 2019-20 season on Friday, November 1 at 8 p.m. when they host Southern Indiana at Mackey Arena.