Player Spotlight: Purdue C A.J. Hammons
Terrone Johnson might be leading the Purdue Boilmakers in scoring, but that doesn’t mean he is the team’s most important player. That role belongs to 7-foot sophomore center A.J. Hammons, who leads the Big Ten in blocked shots per game, and ranks 10th nationally.
Hammons is a graduate of the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, a school that has produced the likes of 23 NBA players, including all-stars Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant.
Hammons, originally a product of Carmel, Indiana, committed to the Boilermakers on October 13th, 2011, before his senior year began.
He chose Purdue over Cincinnati and Minnesota, but other local programs like Indiana and Illinois also offered scholarships to Hammons.
The 7-foot, 265 pound center had Purdue fans excited to see what kind of an impact he would make when he put on his gold and black jersey. Although having some lofty expectations, Hammons did not disappoint in his freshman year. Hammons averaged 10.6 points per contest, corralled six rebounds a game, and shot around 50 percent from the field. He accomplished all of this while only playing 23 minutes a game. With Hammons putting up tremendous numbers and only playing about half of a basketball game, the pressure intensified for him to produce with the Big Ten’s best.
During this past offseason, Hammons worked hard on his footwork and conditioning, dropping 15 pounds.
All his hard work was delayed, as on October 23rd, Purdue head coach Matt Painter announced that his starting center would be suspended for the first three games, for what he called a violation of team rules.
Painter called out Hammons just days after when he said, "I think one of these situations is that you learn a lot about the individual because when something like this happens, you let your teammates down but you've also let yourself down. If you have some pride, you know you're not going to let it happen again."
After Hammons served his suspension, he responded nicely with a 12 point, seven block performance in only 17 minutes of play, in a win over Central Connecticut State. Hammons has been up and down since then. On November 29th, he recorded a season-low zero points, while not taking a single shot in 27 minutes of play. A month later against Ohio State, he broke out for a season-high 19 points and 16 rebounds.
Since that performance, Hammons has been playing his best basketball of the season. His scoring has actually dropped this season by a point, but he has increased his blocks per game by 1.3, and is protecting the rim at an elite level.
On Sunday the Boilmakers travel to Penn State looking to snap a two-game losing streak. The Nittany Lions haven’t had a true center for most of the season. However, when SMU transfer Jordan Dickerson was declared eligible for the spring semester, he became the first rim protector
Photo Courtesy: (AP Photo/Matt Marton)