It’s not often that giants have to step out from the shadows of other humans. But there he is, the 7 foot 2 inch, 300 pound Isaac Haas emerging from the darkness after three years of playing behind and with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year A. J. Hammons and National Player of the Year Finalist Caleb Swanigan.
For the first time in his four year career, he is the unequivocal starting five on the team. He is the guy. Despite all the starts last year, Isaac Haas has still yet to average twenty minutes in a season.
It could be argued that Haas has been a top-five to seven center in the Big Ten since he stepped onto campus in West Lafayette. Last year, it’s easy to argue he was the second best center in the league, and third at worst depending on your feelings about Ethan Happ. The difficulty lies with the fact that he’s always been the second or third best option on the Purdue roster.
A. J. Hammons was a rare defensive force. His shot-blocking and length were unmatched in the Big Ten and Haas backed him up at Center for his first two years. Caleb Swanigan might have been the best big man in all of college basketball last year, and Haas had to share minutes at the five with him the last two years.
Now, both of them are gone, and the path is clear for Haas to play with the kind of confidence that can only be afforded to you when you’re clearly the best option at your position.
And let me be very clear: Isaac Haas was always very good. Much better than my twitter timeline would attest to. There just aren’t players like him anymore in this modern era of basketball. Big men just aren’t skilled enough to run an offense through them, but Haas is. His size and girth allows him to get off whatever shot he wants, and his expanding post-moves allows him easy access to the rim and back board to drop that orange ball into the net.
For his career, Isaac Haas is shooting over 57% from the floor. He has finished the last two years shooting over 70% from the free throw line while drawing the ninth most fouls per forty minutes in the nation and second most in the B10 conference. He isn’t something you game plan for, he’s something you #### your pants for when you have to guard him.
I can’t think of a college player that has been so successful that’s also had to sacrifice so much, so willingly. The big man gets crushed in every game. The refs literally just don’t know how to deal with him. I’ve seen WWE finishers with less planned violence than some of the moves opposing defenders have performed on Haas that haven’t been called. And he’s still willing to sacrifice his minutes to other players despite being one of the most effective offensive players in the country.
This year, Haas will be lined up with a true stretch four. For the first time, Haas will not have to worry about sharing the post with another player. He will instead get the luxury of having four shooters and play makers around him while he gets to feast on one-on-ones and easy kick-outs when they double.
Make no mistake, this should be the year for the Haas. A first team All-Big-Ten is not off the table. He’ll be a dark horse for B10 player of the year as well.
If Haas is able to stretch his minutes, continue to improve his conditioning, and improve his defense, he’ll be a main reason the Boilermakers will be standing over a second B10 championship trophy in two years.