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February 20, 2007
Watt-ever it takes
David Teague and Carl Landry scored 54 of Purdue's 81 points in its win over Indiana last week. It was a familiar story for a team that's largely been carried by its two standout seniors.
But to complement Teague and Landry, Purdue's needed their supporting cast to contribute in other, less tangible ways.
That's where Gordon Watt fits in.
The tenacious sophomore power forward has shown this season that he can score - he's third on the team, averaging nearly eight points, and has poured in as many as 20 - but that's not his primary focus.
"I just want to be on the floor so I can make a difference," Watt said, "whether it's scoring, rebounding, steals, assists I just have to find my way to impact the game. And it can change with every game."
This philosophy was well illustrated in that win over Indiana. His four points certainly weren't the difference in that game, but his four steals and pair of key hustle plays in the decisive second half certainly contributed to the Boilermakers pulling away at the end.
And Teague, who scored a career-best 32 against the Hoosiers, gives an assist for his torrid play of late to Watt's efforts to set him screens on the perimeter.
"Every time I'm coming off screens, I'm looking for him, because I know he's going to set it," Teague said, joking that sometimes Watt "gets a little illegal" with the picks he sets. " That's the type of player he is; he's so unselfish.
"Whatever Coach asks him to do, he tries to do it. If that means sacrificing some shots he knows he can make in order to set screens for me, that's what he does."
Case in point: Those screens.
Coach Matt Painter has preached their importance to Watt all season, but it hasn't been until just recently that he's seemed to really catch on.
"I've been told, 'Screen, screen, screen,'" Watt said, "so I'm looking to set those solid screens, so (Teague) can get freed up and score."
The 6-foot-6 forward has been a key player in a depleted frontcourt, after playing next to no organized basketball the past two seasons.
Watt played sparingly as a true freshman at Boston College two years ago, then redshirted at Purdue last season due to NCAA rules. He was eligible to practice, but couldn't even do that, after undergoing surgery last fall on both his legs.
The Chicagoland native came into this season knowing he'd need to make a daunting adjustment, but hoped he'd be able to do so quickly enough to contribute heavily this season. Having started all but one game this season, Watt's done just that, more often that not in ways that don't show up in box scores or on the evening news.
"That's what leads to winning," Watt said. "When you have two guys who score the bulk of the points, everyone else needs to know their role and play it."
Watt, for one thing, has sought to bring energy to the floor. He showed it against IU.
During the Boilermakers' dramatic surge in the second half, Watt ran down a ball that would have been Purdue's anyway had it went out of bounds. He sprinted for the ball, dove, somehow got a hand on it and saved it right to Teague under the IU hoop for an easy bucket.
Watt expects that role to change next season, with Landry and Teague gone. He hopes he'll be asked to score more, for one thing.
"I knew this year was going to be a learning experience for me," Watt said. "Next year, my role's probably going to change. I've learned everything I'm going to learn now."
Painter's been mostly pleased with what Watt's been able to contribute, and how he's grasped his role alongside the team's two clear-cut go-to players.
"In time, you hope he can grow into somebody who can play an expanded role," Painter said. "It just doesn't happen overnight, and it's a hard thing to grasp for a player. But I think he's starting to see how important those (little) things are for Purdue basketball."
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