Mar 13, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers center A.J. Hammons (20) is guarded by Ohio State Buckeyes forward LaQuinton Ross (10) and center Trey McDonald (55) in the first round of the Big Ten college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Ohio State defeats Purdue 63-61. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Is Purdue Center AJ Hammons Headed to the NBA?

The first question AJ Hammons was asked after the season ended concerned the NBA. Would he leave after two years and go pro? Does he stay in West Lafayette to refine his skills and hope he’s still healthy and in demand next summer or the one after that?

In interviews, Hammons is adamant that he is focused on school and won’t bolt for the pros. But a report and some rumors are swirling that he is eyeing an early exit.

That is basically all we have heard in terms of a definitive answer, but no one is really surprised by the report. Purdue fans are quick to call Smith a liar and question his credibility, and they might have a point despite Smith’s protests.

After some digging, it turns out that Smith might not exactly be a real reporter. Or even a real person. I’m never one to bag on someone due to number of twitter followers, but the account only has 36 tweets (as of 2 p.m.). The report has annoyed Purdue fans, but the question of whether or not Hammons will go pro is a good one.

Hammons told the Indy Star that he has yet to make a decision.

“I know I can play in the NBA, but it’s just, am I ready to? That’s the only problem,” Hammons said. “I’ve heard it before. I know I can do it, it’s just putting in a lot of hard work, and that’s something I’ve been trying to do.”

It does make a lot of sense that Hammons would leave for the pros, however. When coach Matt Painter went on his post season rant about not having the right kind of player in the program, Hammons is likely one of the players he was talking about.

We took a look at Hammons’ long term future with the Boilermakers a couple months ago.

At 7-feet tall and 280-pounds, Hammons has the size and skills to be dominant in the Big Ten. He’s certainly had flashes of greatness in his tenure with the Boilers. He only played 25 minutes per game this year, but averaged 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He also led the conference in blocks, at three per night, and was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive team.

Those are certainly the earmarks of an NBA player, but he has his fair share of issues.

Chief among those is does he really enjoy playing basketball?

At times, he was the star on the court and others Hammons looked like he would rather be anywhere else. He gets himself into trouble far too easily, with fouls piling up against him in bunches, resulting in shorter court times.

He also needs to get into better shape. He didn’t give Purdue long minutes due to a lack of overall fitness. He would be better suited to playing at around 260-pounds.

After last season, some analysts had him as a first round pick, based on potential and size alone. ESPN’s Chad Ford currently has him as the 67th player in the country, but that hasn’t been updated recently. That ranking would put him out of the NBA Draft.

Other scouts insist that he is rolling the dice on declaring for the NBA, and that another year at Purdue would help an awful lot. He needs to squelch concerns about his work ethic and improve his on court effort.

For now, Hammons is gathering information and will wait to make his final decision.

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Tags: AJ Hammons Matt Painter Purdue Boilermakers

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