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October 17, 2009As Purdue opens practice in advance of the 2009-10 season, its focus doesn't change.
"We're definitely going to emphasize the same things we've emphasized every year," Coach Matt Painter said, the morning after his team's first practice. "The difference for us is the experience of who we're emphasizing things with."
That's the interesting dynamic with the Boilermaker roster this season. While Purdue might qualify as one of college basketball's most experienced teams with its top six players and essentially five multi-year starters returning, the other half of its 17-man roster is young.
The Boilermakers have seven first-year freshmen on their roster: big men Sandi Marcius and Patrick Bade and wings D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow and new walk-ons Dru Anthrop, Kyle Coleman and Stevie Loveless.
The robust practice-floor numbers - sought-after following an injury-riddled season a year ago that saw Purdue practicing with about seven healthy players at one point mid-year - should benefit the team in practice, it's hoped.
"The starters don't have to take as many reps now," senior Keaton Grant said.
With more than a dozen-and-a-half bodies in practice, Purdue is splitting its roster three ways, into three five-man teams - black, gold and white groups - as opposed to the usual two.
But all those new players don't yet know what they're doing.
"Our individual workouts in the fall really help us," Painter said, "but they don't erase the (inexperience).
"There are times in practice when they're going to help us, there are times in practice when they're going to slow us down and there are times in practice when they're going to have to move over to the side."
The luxury Purdue has is that the vastly experienced players - seniors Chris Kramer and Grant, juniors Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and sophomore Lewis Jackson all have significant experience - can help the youngsters along.
"We're going to try three teams," Painter said, "so you always have a full team off the court, and with that, hopefully when those guys are off the court, the older guys are teaching the younger guys."
Purdue's Saturday morning practice was scheduled to be three hours in duration.
"We'll go three hours for about a month," Painter said, "then taper (down) as the season goes on."
Two Boilermakers are nursing nagging injuries as practice opens, as Jackson and Byrd have been bothered by a sore quadricep and hamstring, respectively.
Both have been practicing, however.
Jackson practiced Saturday, but Painter said he might alternate days.
Painter said Hummel will be treated in practice no differently than anyone else after his back problems a year ago.
"He's been pain-free for seven months," Painter said. "I look at it as a non-issue."
Last year, it was pretty clear that one of Purdue's freshman guards would redshirt, which John Hart did. This year, with a deep backcourt and an experience-laden core returning, it's very possible one of the freshmen, whoever it may be, could lay out a year again.
"You always see where your rotation is," Painter said, "and you also see where your team is. I think we have a good team and high expectations for this team, and you have to manage those. But any time you have an experienced team ... you have to make sure you have depth, especially along the front line. We're going to have some healthy competition along that front line.
"It'll be interesting to see, but if somebody is clearly behind somebody else and you can count heads, I think it makes sense for somebody to be able to play in that fifth year instead of sitting out behind some people that first year.
"But you never know. We brought Kramer in and talked to him about redshirting in recruiting. He's probably the only guy out there we actually talked to (in recruiting) about redshirting. And he started as a freshman. Shows you how much we know."
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