Should I Stay or Should I Go?: An Open Letter to Purdue's JaJuan Johnson

Tim CarySenior Analyst IApril 13, 2010

Dear JJ,

(First of all, do you mind if I call you JJ? Seeing as how we've never officially met?)

Okay, thanks. Glad that's settled.

Well, JJ, there's a story out today that says you're planning to enter the 2010 NBA Draft.  You might have noticed, from the dozens of Twitter messages that started flying your direction begging you to stay and wishing you well. 

I was going to send one myself, but I'm not sure I can cram all my thoughts on the topic into 140 characters, so here it goes...

First of all, I'm glad you're in this position.  We're talking about the NBA after your junior year because you chose to come to Purdue, chose to sign on with Matt Painter and believe in what he was building, chose to team up with Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore, and chose to work hard and get better every season.

I remember watching you struggle for minutes at times during your freshman year and thinking how close you were to putting it all together.  I remember your coach telling anyone who would listen that you were going to be an All-Conference player.  I remember the thunder-dunk against Baylor. I remember picking my jaw up off the floor.

Sophomore year arrived and the lightbulb finally went on, so to speak.  The thirty-point games.  The highlight-reel blocks.  The inevitable All-Big Ten selection.  The conference tournament championship.  I'll never forget standing at the edge of the floor in Conseco Fieldhouse watching you and the other Boilermakers celebrate with the trophy and trying to come up with a single sports memory in my mind that could top it.

I failed.

Junior year brought bigger and better things.  Undefeated in the non-conference slate. Heart-stopping road wins in places where the Boilers never win.  Oh, and of course, the program's first regular-season title since 1996. 

When I was 12 years old and Purdue was winning basketball championships every season (1994, 1995, and 1996), I took it for granted. It was easy to assume my favorite team would just keep dominating the rest of the conference.

The 14-year gap from then to now felt like forever. Thanks for ending it.

Anyway, you've accomplished a lot at Purdue. Regular-season title? Check. Conference tournament championship? Check. Winning games in March Madness? Check (2008 Baylor), check (2009 Northern Iowa and Washington), and check (2010 Siena and Texas A&M).

And let's be honest: things haven't been perfect. 2010 was supposed to be Final Four or bust. We dreamed of watching you play the season's biggest games in front of a hometown crowd in Indianapolis during Easter weekend.

When Robbie Hummel's knee busted, so did the dream season.

I'll just come out and say it: Butler stole our storyline.

Of course, you might have one more year. One more chance at a Final Four.

But now you have a decision to make. That whole "do I stay or do I go?" thing.  It may arguably be one of the hardest and most difficult choices of your entire life to date.

I really want to tell you what you should do.

The fan in me has a dozen reasons for why my plan for your life is best.

The journalist in me has all the logic, facts, and arguments for where you should play basketball in 2010-11.

But, you know what?

Sharing them wouldn't be fair.

You're a smart guy. That's one of the reasons we love watching you play. How many times have Boilermaker fans watched you anticipate when the opponent is about to shoot as you come flying through the air to swat the attempt away?

You know what areas of your game need work.  I don't need to list them.

You know what amazing God-given talent you have.  I don't need to flatter you.

You know what incredible opportunities are in front of you, both in college and the NBA.

2010-11 could mean your "one shining moment".

Then again, 2010-11 could mean your first giant paycheck.

So what is this letter about, when it comes right down to it?

Simple. I want you to know that in my eyes, you've earned the right to do whatever you want...okay, so that sounds silly. Of course, you can do whatever you want. You're an adult.  But there's more.

I want you to know that in my eyes, you've earned the right to do whatever you want...with my SUPPORT.

I can't think of one Boilermaker fan that HOPES you turn pro before your senior season in the Old Gold and Black.  At the same time, I'm ashamed by any Boilermaker fan that selfishly decides why you have to stay...far be it from me to put my championship hopes ahead of your livelihood hopes.

In fact, let me go one step farther. I will be disappointed if you don't put your name in the NBA draft and at least "test the waters". I appreciate you and your talent enough that I want you to have the best possible information for your decision. 

There's a big financial difference between being a first-round pick, a second-round pick, and a wish-I-got-picked.  With what you have riding on the timing of this decision, you need to put your name in. Meet with the scouts. Work out for the teams. Figure out where you fit in the grand scheme of things.

I think you owe it to yourself to make an educated decision. Not throwing your name in the hat this spring makes that harder.

Of course, signing with an agent today makes it more difficult too.  With either of those extremes, my worry is that you'll be locked in to a choice that might not be best for you until you get more information.

But you know what?  It's your choice, not mine. And I think you'll make a smart one.  I don't even know what that means...and that makes 50% of me awfully worried you might never play another game for my favorite team...but if it's the right decision for you, I'll still applaud it.

Because you have an unbelievable future.

Because you helped turn the program around.

Because you did it the right way.

And most importantly?

Because you're a Boilermaker...and you always will be.


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