Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 16, 2014

It's official: A.J. Hammons will return to Purdue for his junior season. Let the celebration along State Street begin.

?I?ve decided to stay and continue my education here at Purdue, and there are a lot of goals I still want to accomplish with my teammates on the court,? Hammons said in a statement. ?First and foremost, we want to get back to the postseason and compete for a Big Ten title. I feel like we owe our fans some better basketball. Purdue is a special place with a lot of great people and I?m excited to continue my education here and be a part of a great community.?

This is a good revelation for a Boilermakers squad that needs all the help it can get to pull itself out of a two-year funk that has seen Purdue go 16-18 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten in 2012-13 and 15-17/5-13 last season. Purdue last missed the NCAA tourney three times in a row from 2004-06.

Matt Painter and Hammons met many times recently to discuss his standing with NBA teams and personnel and decided it was in Hammons? best interest to return to Purdue.

Hammons has teased with his potential the past two seasons, showing an emerging post game. The 7-0, 250-pound Hammons averaged 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds. As a freshman, he averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds.

Hammons has proven to be a force as a shot blocker, leading the Big Ten with 96 blocks last season. But he struggles with turnovers, often fumbling the ball away in the paint. He also needs to play with more fire, passion and intensity. No doubt, Hammons would be helped by better guard play, as someone needs to learn how to feed him in the post.

Hammons will team with 7-2 incoming freshman Isaac Haas to give Purdue some massive forces in the paint. Fellow freshmen Vince Edwards (forward) and Dakota Mathias (guard) also will have to impact. Also back will be rising sophomores Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott and Basil Smotherman, along with junior Rapheal Davis for a roster that has suffered a lot of attrition the past two seasons. After this past season, Ronnie Johnson became the fifth player to leave the program for another school within a calendar year.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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