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Purdue Basketball: Caleb Swanigan’s Replacement Might Already Be Here.

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It will take a lot to replace the NPOTY, but is part of the answer already in West Lafayette?

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

A curious thing happens when you look for Jacquil Taylor’s name on Kenpom.com for the 2017 season. You can’t find it. It doesn’t exist there. The same thing happens when you looked for him on the court for the 2016-17 season. You can’t find him. He doesn’t exist there.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an aberration. Jacquil has spent most of his recent basketball career injured. He left high school with just a 3-star rating because of a foot injury. He missed most of his freshman campaign because of a foot injury. His redshirt freshman year, he didn’t have a spot in the rotation because a five-star committed after considering becoming a Spartan and joining a rotation of two of the best centers in the conference.

And last year, when it seemed like Taylor might finally find some consistent playing time, another foot injury. It was a major blow to a team that could have used a little more depth on the inside, but mostly, it was disappointing because we’ve been intrigued and teased by Jacquil’s potential measurables and playing style since he’s been on campus.

Jacquil Taylor is 6 foot 10 inches. He’s put on more than twenty pounds since arriving at Purdue, and in his brief playing time has shown the ability to stretch the floor. In his stand out performance in the 2015-16 season, he scored 12 points against Rutgers in 14 minutes and knocked down two of three 3-point attempts.

But his offense isn’t the tempting part of his game. He won’t be able to replace Caleb Swanigan’s production there. From what little we’ve seen of Taylor, his offensive game looks a little slow. The one thing that he needed to the most in his development was to play basketball, to adjust to the speed and pace of college teams. He needed to improve his passing, his decisiveness, and knowing where to be effective on the floor. These are things that come along with real playing time.

But where Taylor will shine, and possibly even in improve on what Swanigan brought, is defensively. In his way too small of a sample size, Jacquil has posted a block percentage of 10% his first freshman year, and 6.7% his second year. This might not be an aberration. Jacquil is exceptionally long and quick for a big man. He provides the potential for rim protection that neither Isaac Haas or Caleb had. Haas led the team with block percentage last year at just 3.8% and Swanigan’s was 2.5%.

While Jacquil’s slighter frame might get bullied in the post one on one, the fact of basketball now, is that big man’s ability to move laterally, cover space, and defend the pick and roll is more important than ever. Taylor’s unique quickness and length might unlock a gear on defense we haven’t had since Hammons. Along with the additions of Ewing and Wheeler, a 7’2” kid in Matt Haarms, and continued improvement on the perimeter(In case you didn’t know - Dakota Mathias is the best perimeter defender in the conference) this could be a potentially devastating defensive team.

The Boilers this year, despite true rim protectors or what you would call ‘good defenders’ had the 23rd best defense according to Kenpom. This was done mostly on the back of Coach Painter’s ability to game plan and get the most of out of his players defensively.

Taylor, if healthy, is a game changer on that end of the floor. If he’s healthy, and at this point, that if is about as big as the shoes he’ll have to help fill this year and next. He won’t be able to do it all on his own, and expect Painter to play small with Ewing and Wheeler backing up Vincent this year as well, but Jacquil is the what-if that Purdue needs if they’re really going to make a push to threaten the top-ten and the final four.

Taylor is a mystery, an unknown, and the word potential is a dangerous one to lust after, but there could be something there. He won’t make us forget Biggie. He won’t be anywhere near the player, but he could be a missing piece that helps propel this team into new heights Biggie helped us believe were possible.