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Gold vs. Black Scrimmage pt. 1

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The Boilers scrimmaged Saturday and we came away with some observations.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Purdue vs Arkansas Little Rock Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last week on Grady Eifert’s countdown post, I wrote some things. I meant them to be light and humorous; I thought that I had included enough about all the hard work walk-ons do for none of the praise that it would be clear my intention wasn’t to be dismissive of Grady but just joshing about a player that wouldn’t be seeing much court time while acknowledging how important they are to building the Purdue culture.

Louis C. K. has a quote, “When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” I believe in those words, a lot.

I was just going for humor, and I obviously missed my mark. My intent did not get across and that’s on me. I don’t get to yell hostilities or dismiss the internet for their remarks as trolling. I screwed up. Me, on my own, and without anyone else to blame. While I’m sure Grady has no care or concern for these silly things I put down on the internet, these words do go out to people around him, and fans of Purdue who have emotional claims and stakes to all these players. I’m one of them, and I failed last week at both meeting that standard and the standard we have here at Hammer and Rails.

And I’m sorry for that. I apologize, sincerely, to Grady Eifert, his family, and all the fans that come here and expect better from us as a site. But mostly, I apologize as a person, a fellow human being, a man, who holds myself to a higher standard than that.

One extra line break, and let’s move on to Saturday’s scrimmage. A couple things on top: Jacquil Taylor did not play because of an injury to his foot, Haas played despite a rolled ankle on Thursday, AND CARSEN EDWARDS IS THE TRUTH.

CARSEN EDWARDS IS THE TRUTH

The freshman scored a team high 28 points, that’s ten more points than any other Boilermaker after the two scrimmages. It’s not just that he scored so much, but that he scored in so many ways. Carsen’s first step is fast, very fast, Jimmy John’s fast - it’s freaky. He got to the line four times and made all four. He also got heavy into the paint and pulled the defense in and dropped off some nice passes to a cutter. He also hit some difficult pull-ups in that almost impossible to navigate in between zone in the paint. He also made four 3-pointers. He also attacked in transition.

He’s a threat everywhere, and Purdue has lacked that on the offensive end in the last few years. Purdue has had specialists, shooters who couldn’t drive or drivers who couldn’t shoot. Carsen is a freshman, but he has the potential to do everything well. Most encouraging though might just be that, while he goes through the learning curve of playing actual D1 basketball, he’s more than capable of just standing in the corner and draining corner 3 after corner 3. We saw with Swanigan last year, Painter is willing to play true freshman big minutes. Carsen’s ability to score from anywhere, to play the 1 or 2, and to add a dynamic to this offense we haven’t had since E’twaun is going to get him minutes on the floor. Probably a lot of minutes.

ISAAC HAAS LOOKED BAD

It was the first thing my neighbor mentioned when he asked if I had gone to the scrimmage so I’m guessing it’s the first thing a lot of you noticed at the scrimmage. Haas just did not look good. I’m not overly concerned in the terms of his effectiveness because we’ve got two seasons worth of evidence that Haas is a killer in a limited roll. Also, he rolled his ankle on Thursday, and he was being aggressively doubled as soon as he got the ball by Basil Smotherman every time he touched it. He was also being hacked, also aggressively, and there was not a whistle to be found.

But. He’s going to get doubled this year. He’s going to not get the calls he should. He’s gotta continue the improvements in his passing he made last year, nearly doubling his assist rate and cutting down his turnovers. My guess is, the scrimmage was mostly a case of him not being able to move comfortably. That he couldn’t pivot or rise up cleanly, and that he’ll be fine once the season starts. However, it’s worth considering, that a spike in minutes not be inevitable for the big man.

If he stays turnover prone, struggles to finish at the rim, or gets in foul trouble, he might stay in a similar role he’s been in the first two years.

CALEB, DAKOTA AND THE SPREAD PICK AND ROLL

The real reason why Haas might not see a big minute spike, has almost nothing to do with him. Instead, it has everything to do with the revelation that was the Dakota and Swanigan pick and roll. Last year, Painter tried to facilitate an offense almost exclusively out of the post. It’s hard to blame him. Purdue had three giants with surprising touch and a bevy of post moves.

However, Caleb struggled in the post. He couldn’t bully ball his way to the hoop like he could in high school. He couldn’t consistently use his quickness to get by or see the passing lanes in time to prevent turnovers. While he could certainly improve in these areas, the truth was, it was never the best use of the freshman.

Instead, his ability to hit jumpers - still a theoretical ability at this point - and his added quickness makes him the perfect big man to run a spread pick and roll. He is still a big man, which makes it terrifying that he has the ability to catch the ball, size up Haas, and then take him off the dribble and push the giant man off his spot at the rim. This happened a handful of times in the scrimmage. What happens after a blow by like that? The big man drops and concedes open jumper after open jumper.

This is great stuff. It’s an offense that leverages two unique skills and will permeate through the entire team to get open shots, movement, and easy, consistent looks that just throwing the ball into the post won’t. Dakota’s ability to pause, push, pull out, off to the side, and then fire a clever pass to Biggie was not only effective, it was damn near poetic. This is how Purdue finally gets the ball into his hands more. This is the Purdue offense of the future, a clear sign that Painter’s evolution as a coach is still happening, and a direct dagger into the heart of the ‘he won’t get better’ crowd that’s been calling for his head.

FINDING YOUR VOICE

It probably didn’t start on instagram, but that’s when I noticed the narrative that took off this off season: Biggie has found his voice. He roasted his team on instagram. He started to embrace his character and assume the role as leader on the team. It wasn’t just talk or at least it didn’t appear to be. The nice thing about scrimmages is there aren’t many people in the crowd. You get to sit closer to the court. There’s not as many distractions. Mackey isn’t deafening. You can actually listen to the game instead of just seeing it.

What you heard throughout both scrimmages was Caleb - Caleb talking to his teammates, Caleb talking on offense, but most importantly, Caleb talking on defense where communication is half the battle.

I was a Biggie hater last year, I’ll admit. I thought he was sloppy with the ball and struggled too much on defense. I got very frustrated very quickly, quicker as the season went on.

But this season, I’m buying in. He looks to have improved in most areas, shaped up his body, and more importantly, we’ve installed a system built around his strengths. He’s bought in, too.

Check back in tomorrow with the last of the scrimmage observations.