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October 28, 2010

Johnson's role changes

CHICAGO - Purdue's asked a lot of JaJuan Johnson through his Boilermaker career.

Now, it will ask for something a little different.

Coach Matt Painter said at the Big Ten's basketball media day in Chicago Thursday that he expects the 6-foot-10 center to see significant playing time at the power forward position left vacant by the loss of Robbie Hummel for the season.

"I wouldn't say it's a full-time deal," Johnson said. "I think it might be more of a matchup scenario. We're versatile this year where we can play different lineups, so it would depend on what personnel we have in the game."

The move, obviously contingent to a degree on the play of centers Sandi Marcius and Travis Carroll, along with fellow big man Patrick Bade, would be a step toward the Boilermakers "playing big" this season.

"In my opinion, we have to play bigger," Painter said. "There's a little bit of guesswork there, but we have to play bigger, especially when you consider who's knocked us off the last two years. UConn with (Hasheem) Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, they just wore us thin and wore a lot of people thing ... and then, Duke. They just manhandled us on the glass.

"We can play smaller ... but I don't think we can ultimately win a championship or advance far in the NCAA Tournament, by playing small with this group."

For Johnson, that would mean a largely different role.

Playing the 4 position would put him in more of a decision-maker's position, Painter said. For example, Painter said, Johnson will now be Purdue's go-to player taking the ball out of bounds off made field goals, a role Hummel played.

"It's something so small," Johnson said, "but it takes some getting used to when you haven't done it in a long time."

Offensively, Johnson would still have opportunities to play inside and outside, as he's so adept to do.

"JaJuan's strength lies in moving him around," Painter said. "He's not a Carl Landry, Steve Scheffler anchor-type guy where you put him down there and tell him to stay there. You have to move him around, get him some screen action and get him inside. You have to let him trail on the break and shoot it, and if he doesn't have it, get him inside. Once he gets inside, if you can't get it to him, you have to get him back outside.

"This opportunity right here, I think you might see him really grow and make some strides in the way he scores."

Defensively, Johnson might have to guard more face-up players as a 4 man, potentially exposing him to foul trouble.

"No question," Painter said. "But when you're on the court, you're exposed to foul trouble. When you lock horns and play post defense you're going to get some fouls same way you would by moving laterally (on the perimeter).

"I watched him with USA Basketball guarding Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green. He got in a stance and guarded them, so he can get in a stance and guard some people in the Big Ten. We'll see how it evolves. He's moves his feet and guards people on the perimeter better than any of our big guys. I'm not saying he's arrived in that area, but he does it better than anyone."

About his other big men, Painter said Bade has "stepped up" over last season, commending the sophomore's rebounding and overall effort now that he's trimmed down from last season.

Painter also said he's been "pleasantly surprised" by Marcius' production in practice

Some other Purdue-related media day notes:

Painter said Hummel's "coaching" role is evolving, but he wants the idled senior talking to teammates, especially the Boilermakers' young big men.

"They're going to take anything he says to heart," Painter said.

One of the Purdue coach's recurring messages Thursday was how he not only wants E'Twaun Moore to lead the Boilermakers in scoring, but also their best defensive player, citing Cuonzo Martin and Kenny Lowe as reference points.

"I think I can do both," Moore said.

Without Hummel, Johnson said Purdue, as much as anything, has to replace his energy, something that's compounded by the loss of Chris Kramer, too.

"Rob made a lot of scrappy plays, did a lot of little things, made a lot of hustle plays," Johnson said. "That stuff gets overlooked, because it's not really a stat. Someone has to fill the void.

"D.J. Byrd is really looking to fill that role, he and Ryne Smith both. They've made hustle plays here and there and taken charges."

Of that duo, Painter said, "If they knock down shots and are solid on defense, they have a place with us (on the court) and they know that."


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