Since starting these recruiting profiles last week I have received multiple requests to do one on redshirt freshman Donnie Hale. Yes, he was on the roster this past season, but since he is one of eight players who will begin his four years of eligibility in the next two years it is only appropriate that I include him as a member of the group. So, instead of Bryson Scott or Kendall Stephens today, we step back into the 2012 freshmen with Donnie Hale.
It is hard to believe that Hale will begin his college career next season despite being a 2010 high school graduate. He was originally scheduled to be a member of the 2010 class with Terone Johnson, Travis Carroll, and Anthony Johnson. Because there was no room scholarship-wise, he was willing to go to prep school for a year and reclassify for 2011. As you know, he then redshirtted this past season.
The fact that he was willing to go the prep school route just to be a Boilermaker is a major plus in my book. He could have said, "thanks, but no thanks" and gone somewhere else to play, but he wanted to be a Purdue player badly enough he was willing to wait a year for prep school and sit through a redshirt year just to get his time. He wouldn't have been the first player squeezed by scholarship limits, either. Matt Howard of Butler was rumored to have been squeezed out when we only had four offers for the four Baby Boilers and him. It stings even more that The Traitor then left after a year.
Hale was one of just two true freshmen, along with Jacob Lawson. He entered a bit taller at 6'8", but slimmer at 195 pounds. I have likened him to the next incarnation of Robbie Hummel in the past because of this. Both players had similar builds when they arrived at Purdue. Hale was a 3-star that had quite a successful career at New Albany, which is typical IU country, if not Louisville's back yard.In fact, Indiana showed interest:
Arguably the best player in the 2010 class from Southern Indiana and a good bet for a double-double nearly every time out, New Albany’s Donnie Hale is on the radar for the IU coaching staff.
The 6-8 Hale was one of several prospects in attendance for last Sunday’s game with Minnesota and came away impressed despite the Hoosier loss.
"They’re always working hard and Tom Crean’s a great coach," Hale told Inside the Hall. "He’ll get their program turned around."
Although the Hoosiers haven’t offered a scholarship, the coaching staff has been in contact with Hale and his high school coach, Jim Shannon.
"They send letters in the mail and they talk to my coach," Hale said of the IU staff.
You guys know I like a winner in high school. Well, that's what Hale was. His teams were an amazing 89-9 in his four years at New Albany, and that included a pair of undefeated regular seasons. His teams averaged over 70 points per game, but they had bad luck in the state tournament. In 2007 they lost in the regional final to Bloomington South by seven to finish 21-4. In 2008, Hale's sophomore year, New Albany was 26-0 before losing by 10 in the semi-state to Brownsburg led by some kid named Gordon Hayward.
Another undefeated season followed in 2009, along with another regional loss to eventual state champion Bloomington South, which was led by Jordan Hulls. His senior year saw New Albany go 19-2 before losing to bitter rival Jeffersonville by two in the sectional. Of his nine high school losses, three were to Bloomington South, including one to open the 2009-10 that broke a 43-game regular season winning streak.
After a year at Bridgton Prep Academy Hale was listed at 6'8", 212 pounds, almost 20 pounds more than his high school playing weight. He averaged 15 and 10 at Bridgton, which is the same place that gave us Cuonzo Martin, David Teague, and Keaton Grant. He was as a top 150 player out of high school, and has now had two years to prepare. His high school numbers were good at 18 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game as a senior. They were even down after a 19.7-10-4 run as a junior. He won four straight conference titles and scored over 1,200 points in his high school career.
So what type of player are we getting? Are the Robbie 2.0 assessments accurate? We've only seen him twice in a Purdue uniform. He missed all five shots from the field in the Southern Indiana exhibition, but was 4 of 7 for 9 points and six rebounds against Northern State. The video I uncovered here could get you excited as well.
Like Rob, Hale can bang if he wants to as well as shoot from the outside. I don't think the three-pointer is as big of a part of his game as it was for Rob, but his mid-range jumper looks solid. His high school and prep numbers suggest that he is a strong rebounder, but to truly be the next incarnation of Rob he needs to have the intangible court savvy that Rob possessed. With Rob gone, there is definitely a vacancy in that department.
What Hale gives us is a versatile player that can probably play the four or the three position. As long as Hammons and Sandi Marcius can hold down the five between them we will have the depth available to play with the four a bit. A Carroll/Lawson/Simpson trio at the four could see Hale grab minutes with D.J. Byrd at the three, where his size and ability to hit the pull-up mid range jump could be a major asset. His size alone at the three would be a luxury in terms of rebounding.
Again, like Rob, I had dreams of a LewJack/Smooge/Rob/JJ/Marcius-Carroll lineup going into 2010-11 that had me drooling over the possibilities of Rob destroying small forwards at the three spot. The addition of Lawson, Hammons, and Simpson now means we can play around with a lineup like that. The game of basketball is all about creating and exploiting mismatches. Hale is a player that gives us a tool to use against certain opponents.
Ultimately, that is why I am excited about next year's team. Assuming all four incoming true freshmen can have at least a marginal impact, coach Painter can actually play around with lineups instead of being forced to go a certain way. We can go small with Hammons/Byrd/The Law Firm. We can go big with Hammons/Simpson-Carroll-Lawson/Hale-Byrd/two thirds of the Law Firm. If we need shooters, Anthony Johnson, John Hart, and Byrd are there. More importantly, Hale can pull his man away from the basket if he is used in the four position. That's part of what made Rob so dangerous.
Hopefully all the sitting over the last two years has made him hungry. I'm always interested in players coming off of a redshirt because they have the benefits of adjusting to college life and the weight room, but they don't get game experience. While I believe we could have used Hale at times this season, it is possible the redshirt worked out for the better in the long run. After all, coach Painter said he doesn't redshirt a player without his consent, so Hale felt like he wasn't ready. Well, he's ready now. Hopefully he will be a major surprise unleashed on the Big Ten.