The final preview is a big one... literally! They don't come much bigger than our 7'2" 297 pound freshman.
Isaac Haas - Freshman
7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 53.5% FG, 54.7% FT, Finalist for National Freshman of the Year
First off, only 21 freshmen were nominated for the National Freshman of the Year Award, so getting a nomination for Isaac was quite impressive. Sure, he is not going to win it because of D'Angelo Russell, but it is truly an honor to be nominated.
Only seven players on the roster played in all 34 games, and Isaac was one of them. He garnered 11 starts and, as I have often said, served as a giant boot up the rear end of one A.J.Hammons to get the most out of him. Coach Painter made it very clear that if Hammons wasn't engaged Haas was going to play. That is part of the reason Haas was starting midseason and Hammons was coming off the bench.
Early on, Isaac played some very good basketball. He was in double figures in 10 of his first 13 games with a career high 19 points and six rebounds against Kansas State. He did not have a double-double, but he went for 12 and nine at Indiana, all while holding the bench back with a great reaction on the Octeus dunk.
Unfortunately, Isaac hit a bit of a freshman wall by the time the Big Ten season came around. His production and minutes both dropped, but part of that came from Hammons stepping up. When A.J. was playing better basketball Isaac was on the bench. The one attempt at a "Twin Towers" lineup came against Michigan State, which was a disaster because the Spartans were too quick in transition against a suddenly much slower Purdue team.
I think it has to be at Indiana. A.J. wasn't really in foul trouble, but both 7-footers were offensively dominant against the height-challenged Hoosiers. The two combined for 32 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocked shots as Purdue won in Bloomington for the first time in five years. It ended up being Purdue's best road victory of the season and Haas further cemented himself in the hearts of Boilermaker fans by giving it right back to a crowd that was riding him.
Final Grade: B+
I was tempted to grade him higher, but the midseason drop and his struggled at the free throw line brought things down a bit. Isaac still contributed quite a bit, with his biggest contribution being getting the best out of Hammons. Purdue could be a very good team with just Haas in time, but with the current lineup it needs a good, engaged Hammons. Haas helped to deliver that while he still got plenty of playing time as he adjusted to the college game.
Can praying for better officiating be something? Isaac often had some questionable fouls called on him just because he was so much bigger than everyone else on the floor. There is not a lot that you can do when that happens. The rest is what most big men have to do to develop after their freshman seasons. Isaac needs to get more sure-handed with the basketball in the post, not bring it below his waist, and learn to go up stronger. He has a good variety of post moves already, but he can be scary-good once he realizes that as long as he goes up strong people will just bounce off of him because of his size. Give him a good power forward to play with like Jacquil Taylor (or Caleb Swanigan?) and Purdue can have some fun.
Finally, Isaac needs to be more consistent at the free throw line. He was one of the leading players in the country in terms of free throws attempted per minutes played. With 139 attempts on the season only Rapheal Davis, with 141, shot more. Isaac did it in 17 fewer minutes than Ray D., too. He started the season well from the line, but had a mid-season dip. He also did not get to the line at all in the final four games. His 54.7% overall percentage is not going to cut it. He needs to get up to at least 65%, and I think he can get there.