Since Purdue lost Alabama big man Isaac Haas to Wake Forest last weekend the Boilers are still looking for a center in the class of 2014. There is a strong chance that A.J. Hammons, thought he would be a junior next season, may leave early if the 2013-14 season goes well for him. It is a double-edged sword. A large part of Purdue's success or failure will be based on his improvement. The better season Purdue has, the more likely he is gone early.
That is what made Haas such a big target, but the loss may not be as big as we thought. Back in March I started trumpeting the case of Steve McElvene, the 6'11" center from New Haven that dominated Fort Wayne Northrop and eventual state champ Carmel in the Marion Regional. With Haas out of the picture Purdue is officially going after him:
Purdue is waiting to see where McElvene stands academically before making an official offer but have continued to be in contact.
"They want to make sure I get my grades right and then have me in for a visit," he said. "It's basically just one class that I have to get finished."
McElvene said he has tentatively set an official visit to Dayton for the weekend of Sept. 14, adding that Dayton, Pittsburgh and Purdue are the three schools he's most interested in at this point. Xavier has also jumped into the mix recently.
A second source also repeats the same sentiment:
@HammerAndRails McElvene has told me #Purdue is just waiting on grades. Staff has an offer ready if he buckles down in school.— Sean Morrison (@sean_morrison) September 5, 2013
McElvene is not well known, mostly because he did not turn many heads until his dominant performance in March. Originally from Indiana, he spent his first two years of high school in Alabama. New Haven featured 2013 Notre Dame commit V.J. Beechem and once teamed with McElvene, they made a run to the Marion regional final. In the morning game against incoming Purdue commit Bryson Scott McElvene was dominant with 24 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 blocks. He even protected the rim against Bryson on the game's deciding play in the closing minute.
In the night game against Carmel the Greyhounds faced one of their toughest games they have had in winning consecutive state titles. New Haven led them for a good portion of the game before falling, and McElvene had a 15-17-2 line against them. Carmel did not have overwhelming individual talent, but they played fantastic team-oriented basketball. They still could not deal with him.
To me, this was a better eye test than some AAU gym in July. Indiana high school basketball is still a pressure cooker with crowds that are big at every level. Both Northrop and Carmel were two of the best overall teams in the state and on the short list to win the state title. In fact, you could argue that of the four teams at Marion that day, New Haven was the weakest. All four had multiple D-I caliber players, and McElvene was the best on the floor by far. this was the toughest of 16 regionals in the state that day in terms of all four teams being excellent.
McElvene is a true big. He has great hands around the rim, rebounds well, and is an excellent defender in the post. He is not going to venture far from the basket and knock down shots, but he doesn't have to. He can erase a bad night shooting by picking up garbage points off of offensive rebounds and he is solid on the other end of the floor. The best part is that he is this good while still being raw. Another big Purdue is going after, 2015 target Derrik Smits, is far more raw even though he is taller and has a better basketball pedigree.
I have been on the McElvene bandwagon for months. It is nice to see he is truly emerging as a possibility, because we will not be disappointed if he signs.