Purdue’s thin roster got a little thinner early this morning. Junior forward Basil Smotherman, who saw his minutes dwindle from 21 against defending National Champion Villanova in November to a pair of “DNP- Coaches Decisions” in the last four games. He scored 5 points against Villanova, but had only scored 7 in eight games against Big Ten competition (three coming late in the blowout of Penn State). Many people were speculating that he might be gone after this season. After all, he was a 4th year player that saw his minutes dwindle and he still had a year of eligibility remaining. Would he graduate and go? That was the thought.
Well, now he is gone. Whatever happened (and due to his offseason shenanigans there is thought it involved “littering and…”) happened, and we can’t do anything but move forward. So what does it mean going forward?
Purdue’s depth is now razor thin
With Jacquil Taylor still out indefinitely Purdue is down to 8 recruited scholarship players. Ryan Cline, Dakota Mathias, Carsen Edwards, P.J. Thompson, and Spike Albrecht make up the back court. Up front, Purdue is down to three guys: Vince Edwards, Caleb Swanigan, and Isaac Haas.
To be fair, those are three extremely good guys up front. They just happen to be Purdue’s top three scorers and at most times at least two are on the floor. This is where Smotherman’s loss hurts the most. If there is a scenario where two get into early foul trouble we don’t have Smotherman as the “Break glass in case of emergency” forward. That’s what happened against Penn State.
With 10 regular season games, a Big Ten Tournament, and (hopefully) a deep tournament run ahead, that depth up front is a concern. You never know when a really excited Bo Boroski will decide to whistle Haas and Swanigan for two quick fouls each. For the most part Vince, Swanigan, and Haas have avoided foul trouble. We already know Haas is guilty of being 7’2” and nearly 300 pounds, so that is worthy of punishment in the eyes of many officials.
I also won’t even THINK about what else can happen.
With Smotherman gone, Purdue has a couple of options for emergency depth. The first one is Taylor, but only if he can be healthy. The last update we had on his progress is that he would be out until at least February. Well, Wednesday is February. Even if he is ready to go, you’re asking a 6’10”, 240 pound man to be thrown into the heat of a Big Ten title race. Ideally, I would like to see him play February 14 against Rutgers, where he had his best career action to date. Unfortunately, we just don’t know if we will see him at all.
Option number two is Grady Eifert. The walk-on sophomore does have a scholarship this season since Purdue had so many left over. He has played 38 minutes in 11 games and, if I recall, even had some first half action in one game. He has scored 15 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and had a career high 8 minutes against McNeese State. He is the most likely candidate to move into the “Break glass in case of emergency” forward out of necessity. At 6’6” 220 he has the size, and we’re only talking about emergency minutes here.
Option number three, and this is the least likely option, is Matt Haarms. The freshman is on the roster and is officially treating this year as his redshirt year after enrolling earlier this month. If Painter chose, he can put him in the lineup. I doubt it will happen, as he would still be at prep school if not for a snafu that started his eligibility clock in the fall. There has never been a plan to play him, and he is only enrolled so he wouldn’t lose this semester as a redshirt year.
Purdue now has an extra scholarship for 2017-18
With Smotherman gone next season the Boilers now officially have an extra scholarship for the 2017 recruiting class. The most likely target for said scholarship is Sasha Stefanovich, the 3-star shooting guard from Crown Point. Coach Painter has long been taking a look at him, but the general consensus is that we were waiting to see what Swanigan would do at the end of the season. Swanigan’s spot was the most likely one to open at the end of the season. Now it is different according to our scholarship grid.
Basketball Scholarship Grid
|Jacquil Taylor||RS Soph.||RS Junior||RS Senior|
|Matt Haarms||Redshirt||RS Freshman||RS Soph.||RS Junior||RS Senior|
It could also give Purdue some room to jump in on Brian Bowen of Laport LaLumiere. The No. 19 national recruit and 5-star has basically everyone in the country interested in him. Painter has also been very interested in his teammate, Jacob Epperson. The 6’11” Epperson officially has a Purdue offer, and now we have a spot for him.
If Purdue were to get Epperson (much more likely than Bowen, though why not take a flyer on him?) Stefanovich then likely moves back into the “Waiting on Swanigan” role.
What about Basil now?
Basil’s departure means the entire 2013 recruiting class is gone before finishing its eligibility. Out of 12 possible years of eligibility from those three guys, Purdue got 7.5. It joins the 2011 class (Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson) as complete swings and misses. Basil has a year remaining for himself and can use it anywhere else in Division I as long as he graduates first. I could see him landing at an IUPUI or even IPFW, where he could team up again with Bryson Scott.
Assuming he graduates, I can see where a smaller program would love to get their hands on an athletic forward that has Big Ten experience. He would be a highly sought after 5th year guy. There is precedent here, as Kelsey Barlow was famously booted from Purdue and resurfaced at Illinois-Chicago for a season. Barlow had to use his redshirt year as his transfer year, however. Since Basil has already redshirted he needs to graduate.
Barlow averaged 14.8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists for the Flames in 2013-14. He parlayed that into a spot in the D-League with Grand Rapids and he is now playing with Aries Trikala in Greece’s top league.
So there is hope. I want to see Basil land on his feet because he seems like a good kid. He has been a fan favorite for his athleticism, but he was one of those guys that it just did not work out. I once referred to him as “Kelsey Barlow, only with his giveashit always turned on”. It seems oddly prescient now, since both players ended their Purdue careers in late January by being booted from the team.