I know I am a little late with this, but I was busy with Big Ten Tournament stuff and the end of the season last week. That said, Robert Phinisee is a local talent I was able to see twice in the Lafayette Jeff sectional and he did not disappoint.
Phinisee just finished his junior season and he has already led McCutcheon, just south of Lafayette, to some of its biggest heights in program history. As a freshman he helped the Mavericks go 22-5 and end Kokomo’s dominance in sectional 7. Kokomo had won four straight, but McCutcheon won its first sectional title since 2006 (and just its 12th ever). McCutcheon also finished as runner-up in their first season in the North Central Conference.
Phinisee’s sophomore season in 2015-16 was even better. McCutcheon went 28-4, won the North Central Conference over Indianapolis Tech, and eventually made the state title game for the first time. It was the first regional title since 2001 for McCutcheon and first semi-state crown ever. In the title game against New Albany he had 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists, but McCutcheon lost 62-59 thanks to Romeo Langford scoring 28 points.
This season was one of high expectations for the Mavs. They finished 23-3 after losing to Carmel 68-61 in the regional at Logansport on Saturday. It was the third straight season they have met Carmel in the regional. The only other losses were to Twin Lakes by 2 in the championship of the Journal & Courier Hoops Classic back in November (and Twin Lakes is still alive in this weekend’s 3A semi-state) and 54-49 to Logansport on January 13th. The loss to Logansport eventually cost them the NCC title, as Logansport went 23-2 and 9-0 in the NCAA. It was expected that Logansport and McCutcheon would meet in the sectional final, but Logansport was upset by Zionsville in the semifinals.
If you’re keeping score at home, that is a 73-12 record over 3 seasons with three sectional wins (in one of the state’s toughest sectionals, no less), a North Central conference title, and a state finals appearance.
Phinisee played in three tournament games this year. Here were his stat breakdowns:
Regional vs. Carmel (68-61 loss): 30 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks of 6’10” John Michael Malloy
Sectional vs. Zionsville (61-47 win): 19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 of 4 from 3, 7 of 13 FG
Sectional vs. Kokomo (78-56 win): 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 7 of 14 FG
Like I said, I saw both sectional games against Kokomo and Zionsville. What stands out to me the most is that much of his game seems effortless. He is ridiculously quick as a 6’ guard, but he glides across the floor. He had a couple of steal and score baskets that completely changed the game against Kokomo. They could not handle his speed. He got into the lane whenever he felt like it and is an explosive leaper for his size. Purdue absolutely could use his athleticism.
Against Zionsville he played against 2019 prospect Isaiah Thompson (the younger brother of P.J. Thompson), and he did a great job guarding him. Thompson had 27 in the upset of Logansport the night before and Robert held him to 16 points on 5 of 13 hooting (4 of 9 from three). They were often guarding each other and while Thompson has more range on his shot, Phinisee was quicker.
The main problem people will have with Phinisee is his size. He listed around 6’ even. If he were 6’3” or 6’4” he would be virtually unstoppable at the high school level. As it is, he would probably be the 2018 Mr. Basketball if not for Langford.
This Scout article has some great video from his Zionsville game, and they rank him as the No. 61 player nationally in the 2018 class (and No. 1 point guard in Indiana). Rivals ranks him as No. 134 nationally but he will go up. 24/7 has him as the No. 93 player nationally.
I can confirm that coach Painter was there Friday night to see both Phinisee and Thompson. Dakota Mathias and PJ were also there to watch Isaiah, but I wasn’t sure if they stuck around to see Phinisee. Being so close to Mackey Arena, coach Painter and crew can see virtually all of his games.
Purdue, Indiana, Virginia, and Ohio State seem to be battling for him, and really, this is one Painter needs to land. He is right in our own back yard and unless Indiana is fine with us plucking Musa Jallow from Bloomington North I am not fine with them getting Phinisee from us.
The long-time PA announcer at Lafayette Jeff asked me if I would prefer Phinisee or Thompson and my response was, “Porque no los dos?” Omar seemed to think we had a good shot at both too. This is all just speculation, of course, but getting both would be nice. Phinisee would come in and immediately replace PJ Thompson after he graduates. He would have Carsen Edwards as a junior and Nojel Eastern as a sophomore in the backcourt with him. Thompson has the advantage of having big brother on the team now and being very close to the program as a result. Thompson is also a 2019 prospect, so his commitment, should it come, would only overlap one year with Carsen.
It is still early on both, but I like Phinisee. He is the best player to come out of the Lafayette area in years and we need to keep him home.