At one point during Purdue’s practice on Tuesday afternoon — Day 1 of official preseason practice — assistant coach Paul Lusk directed freshman forward Trey Kaufman-Renn to defend towering center Zach Edey, despite the fact he was on the same team as Trevion Williams, himself a center and normally Edey’s sparring partner.
Williams, meanwhile, was to be matched up with the other team’s forward, Caleb Furst.
Purdue didn’t use Edey and Williams side by side — as is an on-going experiment — on Tuesday afternoon in Mackey Arena, but it did at least simulate half that equation by assigning Williams to guard the 4. Purdue’s coaches have spoken about the importance of getting Williams, and Furst, himself a high school post player, experience in such matchups.
“It just helps our team if our big guys can guard multiple positions,” Williams said. “Starting to work on it early, I think that can help us early in the season. … I’ve been putting a lot of work in at the 4. I’ve been trying to shoot more, to stretch the floor.”
Williams’ ability to defend smaller players away from the basket would be the key to make those Twin Towers sort of lineups viable beyond just niche use, but he’s not the only Boilermaker working on making such a shift.
Furst, a 6-foot-10 high school center, is, too.
He’s playing power forward.
“It’s obviously something I try to work a lot on to get better at,” said Furst, who played forward at the 19U Games in Latvia in July. “It’s been good to be able to put it into practice (in practice) and acclimate myself to it.”
Painter does not seem concerned in the least about Furst playing away from the basket. “He’s fine,” he said. Furst’s experience overseas was a first test passed with flying colors, as he impressed coaches with his ability to switch screens and stay in front of smaller players.
The Williams-Edey dynamic, though, will be a work in progress.
“It hasn’t been great so far, to be frank with you,” Painter said. “But it’s still a small (sample). We haven’t practiced a lot. … We’ll keep messing with it to a degree. We’re just trying to get ourself in a position with Trey Kaufman, or Caleb Furst or Trevion Williams being the second-biggest guy on the court and trying to work through some things. It doesn’t just come overnight.”
“All those guys have predominately guarded bigs the majority of their careers and rightfully so. That’s the biggest adjustment. Being able to just move on offense when you’re that bigger 4, especially when you’re with Zach, you have to have good spacing, but in what we’re doing, you have to have a purpose. When that ball goes inside, you have to dive (to the rim) quickly and have to be ready to move. It’s almost more about being mentally quick than physically quick, not being behind plays, because you’re already slower.”
Quickness does matter for Purdue at the 4 position, not just in terms of containing penetration. Defensively, the Boilermakers routinely double the post, almost always with the 4, requiring that player to get from Point A to Point B ASAP. Conversely, when Purdue faces post doubles on offense, the 4 is generally asked to roll to the basket to make himself available for a pass at the basket, or at the very least to be in offensive rebounding position.
Defensively, Painter worries about big lineups when it comes to transition defense, especially off turnovers.
“You have to be able to play mistake-free basketball when you’re bigger and you have to be able to bottle people up in ball-screen defense and keep people out of the paint,” he said.
Brandon Newman did not participate in Tuesday’s practice as he’s been experiencing an issue with a lower extremity. As Purdue took the floor on Day 1, the sophomore guard was seeing a doctor. Painter had not yet spoken with trainer Chad Young at the time of his post-practice press conference and said he hoped he’d know more about Newman’s status within the next few days
Meanwhile, Jaden Ivey rolled his ankle on Monday, then aggravated it on Tuesday when he drove the lane and came down on one foot shooting a runner. After departing the floor with the trainer, he returned a while later. He did return to practice, but eventually spent most of the final sessions of practice as a spectator.
“I just rolled it really bad,” Ivey said afterward, “but I should be fine in a couple days. It’s just going to be sore. I should be fine for practice Thursday.”
Purdue does not practice on Wednesday.
With Newman out and Ivey sidelined during the back half of Tuesday’s practice, Mason Gillis — normally a 4 — played Purdue’s 3 position.
By every account, Kaufman-Renn has been surging this fall, after the first few weeks of his Purdue career were sidetracked by a hand injury suffered in the Indiana All-Stars series, literally the night before he moved to West Lafayette.
“He wasn’t in very good shape after he got healthy,” Painter said. “He had a month where he wasn’t really doing anything and then he probably took another month to adjust to being back, but he stayed here between summer school and the fall and lost 12-13 pounds, got in better shape and he’s done some really good things. He’s done a really good job scoring the basketball and being aggressive. He just has to keep working, watching a lot of film and understanding what’s going on.”
Kaufman-Renn has earned widespread mention from Purdue’s coaches for his ability to score in a variety of ways, in addition to his rebounding and versatility. It may not all happen right away, but the possibility exists that Kaufman-Renn could play every frontcourt position during his Purdue career, mostly the 4 to start out with, especially early on while Gillis is sidelined by a suspension. Furst figures in heavily there, too.
It’s sort of a rite of the off-season and preseason that coaches talk up their freshmen, but Purdue is genuinely expecting quite a bit from both Furst and Kaufman-Renn, and certainly classmate Brian Waddell, who coaches and onlookers alike believe has a very bright future at Purdue.
Painter confirmed last week that his plan remains to redshirt Waddell, the very arrangement he was recruited to.
Source: Yahoo Sports