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November 15, 2006
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Keaton Grant chose Purdue last spring in large part because he knew he'd get a chance to play right away.
He was right.
Coach Matt Painter's freshman guard has immediately been cast into a prominent role for the rebuilt Boilermakers, who are relying mostly this season on new players or players who didn't play a year ago.
Grant started both of Purdue's exhibition games; in the season opener against Northern Colorado, he came off the bench, but made a profound impact in his 18 minutes, scoring 12 points and snagging four steals.
"I'm just humbled about (the opportunity)," said Grant, who spent last season at Bridgton Academic, a prep school in Maine. "I'm trying to make sure I don't let myself down, or the coaches. I'm trying to focus and learn as much as I can."
Listed at 6-foot-4, Grant's capable of playing as many as three positions on the floor.
Point guard is not his natural position, he says, but that's been his primary role thus far, as he's one-third of Purdue's three-headed point guard platoon, along with junior Tarrance Crump and classmate Chris Kramer.
"I didn't start playing (point guard) until my junior year in high school," said Grant, who's from Florida. "I was kind of forced to bring the ball up then, and I was forced to play it in prep school, as well.
"Now that I've been playing it at a high level for a while, I feel more comfortable playing the point guard position than I do the wing position. I've been doing it for a while now."
Painter, however, doesn't want to pigeon-hole Grant into just one role. Oftentimes, especially when Crump is on the floor, Grant will move to a shooting guard- or small forward-type role, as the Boilermakers will play a great deal of "small ball" this season.
"We need him to push the basketball, but we also need him to play off the ball and look to score," Painter said after the UNC game. "I think he has the ability to be a very good scorer at this level, and we don't want to consume him with just having the ball in his hands. We want to do our best to mix it up with him.
"His main thing is his instincts on defense and he hadn't really shown that 'til (Northern Colorado). He made a couple instinctive plays on defense and had a couple steals. That's when he's at his best."
One such example came when Grant snuck in behind an unsuspecting Golden Bear, stripped the ball and scored on a breakaway.
Defense is a portion of Grant's game he takes very, very seriously.
"He definitely has the body, the mentality and the attitude to be a defensive stopper," senior David Teague said.
And he wants to.
"If anything else fails - if your shot's not falling or your offense just isn't going right - defense is always just about heart," Grant said.
As a scorer, Grant has displayed his athleticism with a couple of eye-opening dunks. Though he wasn't initially billed as a true shooter when he signed, he certainly looked like one against Northern Colorado, sinking two of the three three-pointers he let loose.
In the spring, Grant chose the Boilermakers over Boston College and Washington, among others, after initially signing with Missouri out of high school.
He said the year at Bridgton - playing for hard-line coach Whit Lesure - made him a better player.
"It helped me a whole lot. Prep school gave me some real coaching; (Lesure) gave me some harsh reality up front," said Grant, who'll turn 20 next month. "He's real and he's going to tell you how it is. He made me push myself and made me see how much I had to work on before I'd be the player that maybe I thought I was in my head."
Perhaps that extra year of experience is the reason coaches say Grant doesn't play like a freshman.
"Both Keaton and Chris Kramer, as guards, you're going to get a lot of different things thrown at you," assistant coach Paul Lusk said, "but they both have a pretty good feel for the game. They may not have any experience, but you wouldn't necessarily know it."
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