How does one thank a class this decorated? The Hummel-Moore-Johnson group never got to have their combined sendoff because of the injuries to Robbie Hummel. The next year it felt very strange honoring Rob with Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson. Even then, it has been a very long time since Purdue has had four senior players depart the program en masse. The last time I can think of off the top of my head was the five senior class in 2000 that very nearly made the Final Four.
But tomorrow we will say goodbye to P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Isaac Haas, and Vince Edwards. They have a chance to win their 100th game together. They have already won one Big Ten championship and we get some help from our friends in Madison they have a chance at a second. The dream of a deep tournament run is there as Purdue can receive its highest NCAA Tournament seed in 20 years. We have as few as three or as many as 10 games left to watch them, and their story is still in progress. It will be a bittersweet day, regardless, but if Wisconsin can do us a huge favor we can have a second straight season where we celebrate a Big Ten Championship on Senior Day.
P.J. Thompson – P.J. has struggled of late. He already has a career high in turnovers. He hasn’t hit a three in three games despite shooting north of 40% from his career. Still, there is a reason I have called him Big Shot P.J. Thompson.
P.J. is exactly what you want in a college point guard. He is a steady performer who often doesn’t make mistakes, plays hard, can hit a shot if you need him to, and he is the cooler at the free throw line. He has only averaged 5-7 points per game in his career, but he has a knock for getting those by hitting a huge triple and then clutch free throws late. He is the only one of the four that won’t reach the 1,000 point club (unless we reach the Big Ten and NCAA title games and he averages 24.5 per game along the way, which is fine), but he has been the type of guy that can get in double figures any game. Usually when he does, we win.
I have long been a P.J. fan because of his style of play. He knows his limits. He plays within himself and does many of the Little Things that makes Purdue better. He is definitely going to be missed.
Dakota Mathias – The Midwestern Cowboy has had a renaissance of late. He hit 18 points in each of the last two games, showing that Purdue will need his shooting here in March. A few weeks ago he joined the 1,000 point club and he currently sits at 1,058 points for his career. He is more than scoring though. he has shown he is the ultimate glue guy by averaging 4 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season. He has helped pick up the rebounding slack this season and his passing has improved. You also know that in any game he can go off for 6 threes.
Speaking of threes, there is a very good chance Dakota will go down as our best three-point shooter. He currently has 231 made threes, trailing David Teague (239), Jaraan Cornell (242), and E’Twaun Moore (243).
Dakota is central to Purdue’s further success this season. We need him to continue being a Swiss Army Knife of a player that can shoot, defend, rebound, and make the necessary pass. He is one of Purdue’s smartest players and the epitome of our style of play. He will definitely be missed.
Isaac Haas – The big man in the middle has a great southern grin and loads of humility. The 7’2” giant is one that can physically dominate any game, but he has a gentle heart as the big brother protector of his younger sister. We have wanted him to play mean and he has had his moments, but as fans we love that grin and demeanor when we’re winning.
Haas is having the best season of his career. He is shooting better than 60% from the field and 75% from the line. He cannot be guarded 1-on-1. He needs only 19 points to reach 1,500 for his career and he will almost certainly get there. His passing has been much better this season with a career high 25 assists and he also has a career high 40 blocks. He will likely finish his career with 1,500 points, 600 rebounds, and 100 blocks. Those are numbers that can’t be replaced easily.
Of course, there is the fact he is an old school center. As someone said, if he was born 20 years ago he is on his way to a nine figure NBA career. Someone will probably take a look at him and he can make a lot of money in Europe though. It has certainly been fun for us to watch him.
Vince Edwards – I know I call him Vince and there have been calls to call him Vincent. I have the theory that Vincent is the evil twin that sucks at basketball that keeps Vince locked in the basement of Stewart Center. He is Purdue’s most versatile player, however, and one that can go off for a triple double at any time.
Generally if Vince has a bad game Purdue loses. He has really raised his game in the NCAA Tournament, and that is a good sign. Against Iowa State last year he had a 21-10-4. He had a 24-13 against Little Rock as a sophomore. Against Cinicinnati as a freshman he had an 18-8-7. Should he keep that up Purdue will go far in March, as long as the ankle heals.
He is already at 1,544 points in his career. He also has 737 rebounds and 387 assists. A 1,600-750-400 is within the realm of possibility. As Purdue’s do-everything player we’re going to need it, too. Rarely do you get a guy that can do everything on the court like Vince can, but I am glad we got him.
As I said above, the story is still being written for this crew. If they beat Minnesota, win the Big Ten Tournament, and make it to San Antonio they will tie the record for most wins by a senior class at 107. They would also finally take Purdue to the promised land we have waited for since 1980.
Let’s help them write a great final chapter over the next few weeks.