It's summertime and for most college students the living is easy. For college basketball players, however, this is their chance to hone existing skills and come up with new and exciting ways to put the ball into the basket. Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a look at the returning Boilermakers, and the former Coach Schneider (J.V. girls basketball, baby) is going to be handing out summer school assignments.
Last week I gave Vincent Edwards a few offseason assignments. If Vince can follow my recommendations, he will be well on his way to adding his name to the list of former players Morgan and Mitch have on donation speed dial. If not, he'll still be a solid all-around player that does the little things that help you win. Next up, is Dakota Mathias. Dakota started to come into his own as a sophomore, and if he can improve in a few key areas, he'll be ready to set the Big10 on fire next season.
First, here is what Dakota does well:
Assist to Turnover Ratio 2016: 89:21 (2nd in Purdue history)
Painter often credits Dakota with being one of the best passers he has ever coached. Last season, all the praise came to fruition, as Mathias notched 89 assists and only 21 turnovers. Dakota is a guy that makes the offense run smoothly, and his ability to feed the post from the wing is crucial for the Boilermakers. Dakota's ability to feed Haas and Biggie will play an important role in the success of Purdue in 2017.
Big Shots 2016: Crucial late 3's against: Wisconsin, Maryland, Indiana, and Little Rock
Last week, I said that Vincent needs to be "The Man" on offense. Well, he might need to look at Dakota for some late game advice. Dakota has ice water in his veins, and if you collapse on the drive or the post, he's going to make you pay with a dagger 3 from the outside. Purdue is going to put a menagerie of shooters on the floor in 2017, but Dakota might be the guy I would pick to pull the trigger on a last second 3.
3 point shooting 2016: 41.5% from deep in Big10 play
Dakota was a little off in the preconference schedule from deep, but once the Big10 portion of the schedule picked up, so did his 3-point shooting percentage. Purdue needs Dakota to be a 40% plus shooter from outside, and that's just what he provided last season. Having 2 wings (Vincent and Dakota) capable of shooting over 40% from 3 opens up the post for Haas and Biggie. If Dakota can consistently hit next season, the collapsing defense that vexed Purdue in several big games last season will be a thing of the past.
Summer School Assignments:
If a Purdue player is going to come down with some sort of exotic disease, it's going to be Dakota. He came down with mono in the offseason during his freshman year, lost a bunch of weight, and came in physically incapable of handling many minutes. Last offseason he had surgery on a deviated septum in order to help with his chronic breathing / sinus issues. This offseason, as far as I know, Dakota is healthy for the first time in his Purdue career. Dakota is in prime position to fill the starting shooting guard position vacated by Ray Davis, but he's going to need a solid offseason to hold off Ryan Cline. The only way this happens is if Dakota can spend less time sick in bed and more time on the court, because you know Cline is going to be grinding and gunning for the starting spot. A healthy Dakota means a more in-shape Dakota, which means Purdue can keep one of it's best offensive players on the floor for longer stretches of the game. More Dakota is a good thing.
Dakota is never going to be a lockdown defender in the Ray Davis mode. At best, he's a marginal athlete (please note, marginal athlete in terms of a D1 basketball player, not in comparison to the 99% of non-D1 basketball players) that struggles to stay in front of more athletic guards. Staying healthy and getting in better shape can fix some of his defensive issues, but the rest is going to require hard work and dedication to the craft. He's going to have to anticipate a little better and cut off angles before the drive. He needs to relentlessly pursue guys coming off screens because he can't make up a step if he falls behind. He's going to have to use his basketball intelligence to get his hands into passing lanes and create a nuisance for the opponent. He doesn't have to be great, but he has to be serviceable. I mentioned above that he will be fighting with Ryan Cline for the 2 guard spot. If history is any predictor, under Painter whoever proves to be the better defender will get the majority of the minutes for Purdue. The Boilers won't have AJ Hammons to protect the rim this season, so perimeter defense is going to be at a premium.
Transition from Shooter to Scorer:
It's time for Dakota to diversify his game a little. He hit more 3 pointers (44) than attempted 2 pointers (43) last season. Dakota needs to continue to be a consistent threat from behind the 3-point line, but if he can start using his 3-point shooting to create driving lanes on hard closing defenders, Purdue will be in much better shape offensively. Right now, the book on defending Dakota is to close as hard as you can, because he's not going to put it on the floor and beat you. Last season, you began to see Dakota utilizing the pump fake, sending his defender by on the close out, and then stepping in for a mid range jumper. While I appreciate the mid-range game, if Dakota can get a little closer to the rim and start drawing a few fouls, it would be of great value, because he is money from the free throw line. I'm not looking for him to square up his defender and beat him one-on-one, but a few timely drives off pump fakes would be much appreciated. At 6'4, 200ish, Dakota has the frame to hold off defenders and score at the rim. That should only get better with a full offseason of conditioning and weights. Just showing some ability to get to the rim will make defenders stop overplaying him, which, in theory, should give him a little more space for his 3-point shooting.
This is Dakota's year to break through. I have him penciled into the starting lineup as of now, with pencil being the important word in that sentence. I think he has a better overall game than Cline at this exact moment, but Cline isn't going to be sitting around, and could easily surpass Dakota if he doesn't grind hard this offseason.