Player: Grady Eifert
Tangibles: 6’6, 220 lbs
Scouting Report: Tough and gritty defender and ball mover on offense, with decent size and quickness. Relies on his energy on the glass to get put backs for points. Versatility to guard multiple positions, but best suited to guard wings. Surprisingly productive at getting to the line. Is not a threat to shoot the ball, but a heady cutter on offense with a surprisingly quick first step and decent leaping ability to attack the basket.
Overdone Narrative: Former walk-on turned scholarship player turned contributor.
Anecdotal Narrative: In Purdue’s first test of the year, the Boilermakers went into Milwaukee to take on a high-powered Marquette team. This was Eifert’s first chance to show he was an integral component to this team when not playing a directional school. He cut hard after Marquette doubled in the post, Grady caught the ball and drew a shooting foul. He went to the free throw line. Airball. Ouch.
He was undeterred.
He would go on to make his next four free throws and both of his shots in the game for 8 points, grabbed four rebounds, and assist on two field goals in a then career-high 24 minutes.
Expectations: As I said, Grady Eifert came to campus as a walk-on with an athlete’s last name. Coming into the season he had played 74 minutes in 27 games through his first two years. He was supposed to just be a feel-good story about a kid who worked hard and picked up a scholarship for it, but he wasn’t going to actually make a difference on the court.
Best game: While Eifert had a four game stretch to start the year where he scored at least 8 points in all of them, and was surprisingly efficient all year at getting to put-backs and cutting into the lanes, there’s no question what his best game was. It wasn’t even the two games he started for Vincent Edwards where he played admirably, it was the second match-up of the year against Butler.
It was one of the better 2 point, 17 minute performances you’ll ever see. Eifert grabbed 5 rebounds, but it was his defense that helped get Purdue back into the Sweet 16. Eifert wasn’t just good on the defensive end, he was incredible. The stat sheet says he had just a steal, but he his defensive awareness and ability to cut off driving lanes helped stifle a Butler defense that was threatening the Boilermakers late.
The one steal he had should be shown in classrooms during ‘how to help defend’ master’s class. He was so alert, he helped like a queen on a chess board who was allowed to straight moves, sliding over and then up, stopping the drive to the hoop that a second before looked wide open, and then took the ball for good measure.
Expectations For Next Year: There’s no arguing it at this point. Eifert has played his way into the rotation. He played every game but one this year, and contributed nightly. He was a surprisingly effective offensive player, getting to the line, and crashing the offensive glass. He’s a good passer, and a great defender. He possesses surprising athleticism and has enough heft and strength to guard bigger guys while excelling at defending the wing. He’ll be crucial next year to provide a calming influence, steady contributions, and heart to a talented but young team next year.
Improvements for Next Year: Shooting. Eifert connected on 2 three-pointers, but only took 5 on the year. The offense could get bogged down if Eifert played with Eastern because of the lack of spacing. If Eifert could become anything close to a threat from the perimeter, he would jump into start caliber talent. But maybe most importantly, he needs to improve at the free throw. He’s a fearless attacker at the rim on offense. His 72.7 free throw rate is ridiculous, but he only made 54% of his free throw attempts.