It’s not common to see a team struggle with a legitimate NBA prospect on their squad, but that’s the case with the Purdue Boilermakers and their center A.J. Hammons. For both parties it appears a mutual separation at the end of the season would be the best move at this point.
Hammons was the first 7-foot player recruited to Purdue in at least the past 20 years, and the first one head coach Matt Painter has been able to lure. He’s been arguably Purdue’s best player over the past year and a half, with the team’s record depending on his nightly performances. For his career he’s averaging 10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
So why would anyone think a 7-foot player, who plays well on both ends of the floor and is an NBA prospect, should leave their respective program? Because said player is becoming a cancer right before our eyes.
Calling Hammons a cancer might be a little strong, but how else would you describe a player who shows little passion for the game, to play by his coaches rules and even be in college. The red flags waved last season, although it was easy to overlook since Hammons was a player many thought could help lead Purdue back to relevancy. That somewhat changed when Hammons was suspended for the first three games of this season for what Painter called “conduct-related and nothing academic”.
Painter’s statement was vague, like most coaches are, but his quote to Indy Sports Legends painted a different picture:
“He looks like an NBA player, but it’s a process,” Painter said. “Let’s go to an NCAA Tournament. Let’s compete for a Big Ten title. Let’s keep our focus on the now. And I think if you do those things and you stay consistent, those things will happen for you. People want to conversate about the projection and what could happen, instead of saying, ‘You know what, let’s win today. Let’s go to class today, let’s meet with our tutors, let’s do everything we’re supposed to do, let’s give other people the benefit of the doubt and treat others with respect and keep it that simple.’ And when that happens, that’s when you see really talented people take off.”
So you’re telling us Hammons has NBA-itis? Say it ain’t so!
Since Hammons appears to have no passion to play college basketball, or even be a college student, it would make sense for him to declare for the NBA Draft at the end of the season. Both sides win in the long run as Purdue can begin the process of replacing Hammons, which could come as soon as next season if four-star, 7-foot-2 center Isaac Haas comes in ready to play.
At 13-9 and with only nine regular season games left, it looks like Purdue will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. That is unless they make some miracle run in the Big Ten tournament, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So we are looking at a minimum 10 games before the Hammons era can officially come to a close at Purdue.
Even with all the red flags, you had to hope Hammons would see the college game as his springboard to the next level and possibly a lottery pick. Instead he’s thrown away the opportunity to show off his skills and throws an Andrew Bynum-esque wrinkle into NBA scout’s notes.
In reality the relationship between Hammons and Purdue basketball could have been rockier, so getting out unscathed will be great for both sides. But it’s time the relationship ends and new chapters begin.