You guys are going to love Grant Weatherford.
When I went to talk to him after Friday night's 77-61 win over Western he had the look of an old school Purdue basketball player. He had ice packs on both knees and was in his high school letter jacket, but was still sweating even though he had stepped off the court for the last time about 15 minutes earlier. He was signing autographs for the hometown fans who have seen him grow up. One of the first thing he said was that he was battling an illness.
Yes, he was sick, had some sore knees, and was regularly checking out of a game against a conference rival because he looked a little drained. That is why we're going to love him.
His final line of the night:
7 of 10 FG, 0-1 FT, 14 points, 10 steals, 6 rebounds, 2 assists.
Grant Weatherford is a Purdue basketball player. That is the highest compliment I can give him. He could probably score 25-30 points per game at the 3A level in Indiana, but he would rather be a defensive menace. Of his 14 points at least 10 came directly from steals. His first basket was only 27 seconds into the game when his teammates hassled Western into a poor inbounds pass. The Western player threw long, but Weatherford intercepted it like a defensive back and he converted a breakaway one-handed dunk. His second basket was a steal that led to a two-handed dunk as Hamilton Heights opened an 18-1 lead in about six minutes.
There is one caveat. Western's top player, Des Balentine, did not play Friday night. Balentine is a solid player and the younger brother of D.J. Balentine, a junior for Evansville and one of the top players in the MVC. It would have been interesting to see him play against a quality player like Balentine, but Weatherford was solid all the same.
We're going to like Weatherford because he defends like a mad bastard. If his man had the ball, he was up on them. I have been watching high school basketball for over 30 years and taking detailed stats since I was seven years old and I have NEVER seen a player notch 10 steals in a game. Weatherford did that tonight with ease. If we're looking for a guy that can convert defense into offense with some easy baskets off of steals we have one in Weatherford.
After the game I was able to talk to Grant and here is what he had to say (Full audio here Weatherford Interview ):
On the 10 steals and being an old school player:
"That's just how I am. I always go out and try to make an impact defensively. As you saw we got out to a great start and it was nice to start it out with a dunk off of a steal. It really got he momentum shifted our way."
On being compared to Chris Kramer and Aaron Craft:
"Those are some big shoes to fill. I don't know. I feel like part of my game is like them and part of my game I am trying to evolve with the offensive side of the game. Coach Painter said I am a little bit ahead of where Kramer was offensively at this point. They are big shoes to fill, definitely."
On knowing the current players on the team:
"I just always talk to them and they are really nice guys to be around. Next year, I can't wait, even if I come in off the bench and just play a little bit. I definitely don't want to mess up the flow of things because they have some good things going right now."
On knowing Ryan Cline:
"He is one of my best buds. He was at our game last week. I texted him at 7 o'clock and he was there within 20 minutes while we were in the layup line. We can't wait to get there."
On possibly playing football:
"I have talked to coach Painter and he told me to just work on basketball right now and stay focused. If, after my four years, I don't have the opportunity to go to the next level, play overseas, or if my heart just feels like playing another year of football, maybe, but right now it is just strictly basketball."
This was not my first time seeing Weatherford play. In the past I have seen him be able to shoot the three if he feels like it, but mostly he is a team first player. He could be dominant offensively, but from what I have seen he knows he can be an excellent role player that makes those around him better. That's why he is going to fit in at Purdue so well. I would much rather him respect what Kramer did than feel he is better than Kramer from day one. He knows he is the spiritual successor and he wants to live up to it because he honors those who came before him rather than thinking he is instantly better.
Yeah, we're going to love Grant Weatherford.