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October 25, 2012
ROSEMONT, Ill. - Running on the treadmill for an hour without pain, getting in full weight-lifting sessions with teammates, spending extra time working on jump shots without fearing it would lead to knee soreness or swelling.
They may seem like minor things, but for junior guard Terone Johnson, they were all new developments.
For the first time in his Purdue career, Johnson had a healthy offseason.
And he thinks it will pay dividends.
"I got to do a lot of working out that I didn't really get to do before as far as conditioning-wise and also when I was at home, I got to do a lot of shooting practice with a coach," he said Thursday at Big Ten media day. "It was a great offseason for me. I feel like it definitely helped my game."
Though Johnson will be counted on to be a premier defender for the Boilermakers, the offseason work could especially elevate his offensive game.
Johnson averaged 9.2 points per game and shot a team-best 47 percent from the field among players with at least 100 attempts. But his free-throw shooting was dismal (44 percent), and he made only 31 percent of his three-pointers.
Last season, too, Johnson often relied on his ability to get the rim and either try to finish with a floater or at the basket. But he knows to become a complete player - and because teams will now try to take away the drive - he had to do more.
So why not ask one of the highest-regarded shooting coaches for some help?
Johnson hooked up with former Boilermaker and Pacers guard Billy Keller for one-on-one sessions this summer. Johnson said he worked with Keller at least twice a week, depending on Keller's schedule and duties as Pacers' Director of Player Development, for one month.
"We would just basically shoot for an hour," Johnson said. "He would just critique my shot and show me what I need to do. We started out doing really just right at-the-basket shots, and we kept moving out each time. Then we started doing off-the-dribble. I think it really helped me out."
Keller tweaked some of Johnson's mechanics, his hand placement on the ball and where his shot was originating from (in front of him instead of the side of his head).
At each session, Johnson saw an improvement and enjoyed the time spent with Keller, who may be in his 60s but can still relate to the young guys.
"He's really a competitive type guy also," Johnson said. "He's out there shooting the shots and he's making them, and it's making me want to make shots, too. His form is just perfect. So just to see how he shoots the ball, it makes you want to be like that."
Johnson said he's seen the work translate into practices.
He's feeling more comfortable pulling the trigger on three-pointers - and is more confident they'll go in - and also to stop-and-pop instead of going all the way into the lane.
D.J. Byrd said he's seen a transformation in Johnson's offensive game, too.
"I think he's been more patient. He still attacks the basket - he can attack very well - but if it's not there, he's learned to kick the ball and get it back on the next reversal and be able to knock down the shot, be able to go off the dribble and hit a shot," said Byrd, who also attended media day. "Of course, his free throws I've seen a large change in his shooting form. He's done a great job so far in practice of knocking down free throws. It's just about getting better in the offseason and every day in practice."
They don't have Robbie Hummel on the roster for the first time in years, and defensive stalwart and multi-year starting point guard Lewis Jackson is gone, too.
But opposing players in the league aren't buying that Purdue is rebuilding.
"I feel like they're another program where it doesn't really matter who the names are - they don't need the big-time recruits necessarily - Coach (Matt) Painter does a great job of getting guys to play extremely hard and play tough and just finds a way to get the job done," Wisconsin forward Jared Berggren said.
The new-look Purdue team will have some similarities to the Berggren's Badgers, who always have tough, versatile big men and thrive on the defensive end of the floor.
Wisconsin also lost its All-Everything, Jordan Taylor.
But Berggren said that just leaves opportunities for other players to emerge.
Tim Frazier knows about emerging: He did that for Penn State when Talor Battle left.
"Robbie Hummel was there for so long, you were like, 'He's the guy they're going to.' Now, it's different," Frazier said. "You want to see who is going to step up. But just knowing their coach and knowing Purdue over the last three years, they're going to play the same way, they're going to pressure you full court. They're going to run their stuff.
"So you know that, but it's up in the air who is going to step up. But I know they have players who are going to be ready to go."
Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is just happy Jackson isn't one of them.
"I can't say I'm sad to see LewJack leave because he was a pest," Craft said with a smile. "Coach Painter always has those guys ready to go, always has them playing great defense. Any time you do that, you're in every game. We always have tough games against them. That was the loudest place I've ever been in freshman year when E'Twaun (Moore) went off for about 30 on us. I'm really upset we were on the other end of that."
The Buckeyes came back, though, and have beaten Purdue in back-to-back games.
Illinois senior Brandon Paul would like to say that, regardless of who is in uniform for the Boilermakers. He says he hasn't beaten Purdue yet in his career - losing seven consecutive against the Boilermakers.
"When I think about Purdue, I think about one of the toughest teams in the conference," he said. "They always come out with a chip on their shoulder. They play hard. Those are the games I'm looking forward to this year.
"I'm friends with D.J. on the team, I got a chance to play with him overseas, he's a good guy. But when you get on the court, it's all about business. Coach Painter always does a great job with them."
When she found out Purdue junior teammate Courtney Moses was tabbed as one of the preseason all-Big Ten picks by league coaches, Mingo "freaked out."
Moses, one of seven players on the team because of ties, not so much.
"My reaction is in the title it says 'preseason.' The season hasn't started, so nothing has been done. You still have to perform," said Moses, whose Boilermakers were picked by league coaches to finish third behind Penn State and Nebraska. "What matters is at the end of the season. We'll let things happen."
Moses averaged 10.8 points per game last season, following up a freshman year in which she scored 11.7 per game while making 41 percent of her three-pointers. As a sophomore, Moses struggled a bit from long range, making 31 percent.
But she happily accepted Coach Sharon Versyp's challenge of taking 30,000 shots this summer and thinks she's improved.
Mingo joked that Moses could have had a sleeping bag stashed inside Mackey Arena so she never had to leave the gym.
"I swear I never saw her anywhere else," Mingo said.
But Moses is more than just a shooting threat from the perimeter, Mingo said.
"She's going to be an important player for us because she is the absolute embodiment of whatever it takes for the team," Mingo said. "Whenever she's on the floor, she makes each and every person around her better. That's what she takes pride in, and I think that's going to be awesome for us. And she's a relentless worker."
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