ITH 2021-22 Season Preview: Purdue Boilermakers – Inside the Hall
With the college basketball season kicking off in early November, we’ll be looking at the conference as a whole as well as Indiana’s roster at length over the next month or so. Today, our team previews continue with a preview of Purdue.
Previously: Minnesota, Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Iowa, Rutgers, Michigan State, Maryland, Ohio State, Illinois
Purdue has just wrapped up an impressive season where the team exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in the Big Ten.
Although the Boilermakers finished with an 18-10 overall record, they ended their season on a lower note. Purdue suffered back-to-back overtime losses to Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament and then the No. 13 seed North Texas in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“That’s what we really talked about, was learning from that and being better, even in a better position in next year’s promising NCAA tournament,” said Matt Painter at the Big Ten Media Day October 8. “We have to be able to use this as motivation.
Despite the loss, expectations for Painter’s side remain high at the start of the 2021-22 season. The pre-season AP top 25 placed the Boilermakers in 7th place.
Much of that optimism surrounding the program is due to the experience it will boast of bringing back all of its starters and nine stock players from last season. Purdue’s only notable loss was that of junior forward Aaron Wheeler, who transferred to St. John’s.
Guard Jaden Ivey is back for the Boilermakers after an impressive freshman campaign and has been named on nearly every All-Big Ten and All-American preseason rosters.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore has just been named to The Athletic’s preseason second all-star team. He’s just one of four Big Ten players named to their two teams alongside Kofi Cockburn of Illinois (first team), then Trayce Jackson-Davis and Hunter Dickinson of Michigan in second team.
His work last year – averaging 11.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game – earned him a spot on the Big Ten All-freshman squad. Ivey then played for the FIBA U19 World Cup squad over the summer and helped the USA team win the gold medal.
Eric Hunter Jr. and Sasha Stefanovic are expected to join Ivey in the back starting zone.
Hunter has led Purdue’s offense to the point guard for the past two seasons. He scored 8.5 points per game and recorded 2.8 assists last season, while leading the Purdue perimeter defense with 26 steals.
As a shooting guard, Stefanovic is the main threat to the Boilermakers perimeter after scoring 139 3 points for his career. Last season, he shot 40 percent from the 3-point range and 84.2 percent from the free throw line. Despite his high offensive rating, Stefanovic plays more of a facilitator role on the offensive side of the pitch.
In the frontcourt, second-year striker Mason Gillis will likely start up front. Although Purdue’s top two rookies, Trey Kaufman and Caleb Furst, both play forward, Gillis is set to stay in the starting lineup after his impressive freshman year in the red shirt.
He shot 60% from the inside of the arc, but also stretched the defense with his shooting average of 35.2% from the outside. He also tallied 4.1 rebounds per game last season.
The last piece of the starting lineup is mainstay Trevion Williams who has decided to return for his senior season. He was named to the All-Big Ten first team last season.
In his first three seasons at Purdue, he recorded 21 career double-doubles. The 6-foot-10 Williams is a force in the post and is not only talented in his score – posting 21 double-digit games last season – but also in his low stint.
“He’s a better player than he was two years ago,” said Painter. “He has a better knowledge of the game. He’s such a good offensive rebounder, such a good passer. These are its two extremes at a high level.
Like Ivey, Williams has also been named on a number of preseason All-American rosters. Painter said what makes him so valuable is his view of the court that allows him to do a lot of different things.
But the Boilermakers are deep in the fifth position. 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey will come off the bench. He proved himself as a rookie last season averaging 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 59.7 percent from the ground.
Last season Painter sometimes played Williams and Edey together, but more often than not had one of the big men on the bench due to fatigue and foul issues. When asked if he plans to play them together, Painter didn’t get a concrete answer.
“I think our clashes, with our team, will be really determined more defensively than probably offensively,” said Painter.
He said it was going to come down to whether Williams can function as a four on defense, but that doesn’t mean he will make him play in the perimeter. He still wants Williams to show up in the painting if he and Edey are together on the pitch.
At the end of the line : Purdue brings back a wealth of experience and talent with his nine returning stock players and two All-American contenders. Painter will look to Hunter, Stefanovic and Williams to lead the team, while Ivey and Edey will continue to emerge as subclasses. If the Boilermakers can work on their perimeter defense and decision making with the ball, the cap for this team is a conference title and a much deeper NCAA tournament run than they saw last season.
Quote: “I think the keys don’t come down to talent, the keys come from producing that talent and the sacrifices you have to make to be a part of a team. It’s hard to do. It is a difficult thing to do. – Painter at Big Ten Media Day earlier this month.
Filed at: 2021-2022 Big Ten Preview, Purdue Boilermakers