Sometime in May, what JaJuan Johnson was seeing might have seemed unlikely.

For one he wouldn't be standing, in his black practice jersey and shorts with gold trim, dribbling a ball at Mackey Arena. 

At the same time, the odds would have seemed unlikely that Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore were close behind.

A few months ago, it was Johnson and Moore who were mulling a move to the NBA, while Hummel continued to deal with a torn ACL that put some doubt as to when he may have come back.

"I wouldn't say I'm really amazed," said Johnson of seeing all three players on the court for Purdue for the first workout of the season on Friday. "I guess after this year there was some doubt maybe that one of us might not be here.

"But I'm happy everyone is here."

Especially for head coach Matt Painter, who will see the nucleas of his team return for a fourth consecutive season. Moore, Hummel and Johnson were the top three scorers on the team in that order from a season ago, with No. 25 leading the team in rebounding as well.

"We didn't know that would happen," said Painter of the three making it all four years. "They are all very good players. Were excited for our program to have those guys back."

It might have appeared unlikely when all three started as freshman and helped Purdue to a Sweet 16 appearance as sophomores. Hummel's ACL tear ended any chance of him entering the draft early but Johnson and Moore each put their names in following the season.

Following a few workouts with NBA clubs, both decided to return to school in early May, bringing the trio back to West Lafayette for a fourth season.

"Man, time goes fast," said Moore of his four seasons in West Lafayette. "We remember when we first came in as freshman, just didn't think it would go this fast. But we had some great success, and its been a good ride up until now."

But for the trio that helped to put Purdue back into the upper echelon of the Big Ten conference, there remains one goal that has eluded them: The Final Four. The Boliermakers seemed to be on that track in mid-February last year, but were never the same after Hummel's injury, slipping towards the end of the year and earning a fourth-seed for the tournament. 

Purdue suprised many by making it to the Sweet 16 where there eventually fell to Duke. Now with Hummel back again, the chances for many remain high that this group can get the one thing that has eulded them.

"That was definitely motivation for us this year," said Hummel, who said he was fine after the workout on Friday. "I think we are extra hungry and we're ready to go."

Along with trying to become the first Purdue team since 1980 to make it to the National Semifinals, there is the thought of the four helping to pass the program on to the younger players. A number of high level prospects attended Purdue based on the rise of the program with the three's play, and there is a feeling among the trio that there is a responsibility to keep it going.

"You've just got to show them the hard work and leadership that was shown with us with Keaton (Grant), Marcus (Green) and Chris Kramer and if we do that, they'll learn and one day they will be leading this team," said Johnson.

Thankfully for Painter, that's a job that won't be in question for at least the next six months.

"We play through those guys from an offensive standpoint and we want those guys to get touches and get looks and a lot of guys understand that," said Painter of the three.